Kathryn Bigelow’s latest war movie is Zero Dark Thirty. Give it another five years, change the title, change the genre, and it might be a half-decent film. Right now, however, it’s not looking good. Below are the top three reasons why Bigelow should shelve her latest project. But first, let’s take a look at the trailer:
Alright, now that we’re on the same page here, lets get started. This is what makes me uneasy about Zero Dark Thirty:
1. The Timing
I‘m sure a lot of people will tell me to stop being over-sensitive if I give the “too soon!” protest, but it’s true. We’re still living in a scarred generation and it’s bad timing to turn that emotion into entertainment. It’s been hardly over a year since FBI’s most wanted, organizer of multiple anti-US attacks, and founder of the organization behind the September 11 tragedy was found and killed.
That night, there was celebration in the streets. The spoof newspaper The Onion came up with the headline, “Violent Death of Human Being Terrific News For Once.” It was a night to be remembered. But not everyone remembered it in the light-hearted, “let’s hit the bars and party in the name of freedom” way. For some, it was a night of closure, as the man responsible for the death of a loved one finally met his fate as well. Is it right to trample on that quiet moment so soon?
2. The Genre
Over the past decade we’ve all seen numerous 9/11 commemorations, varying from the sentimental to the strange. (The oddest I’ve seen was a cake made in the image of the intact towers. It was beautiful, but I’m not sure if there’s a politically correct way to cut such a cake.) I wouldn’t complain “too soon” to those and I’m sure some would argue that this movie is just one more memorial, no more disrespectful than any number of unusual trinkets and ceremonies that, though unconventional, have the potential to bring comfort, understanding or acceptance. Couldn’t Zero Dark Thirty could be classified as such — something that is well-meaning but misses the mark?
Doubtful. It’s hard to tell, watching the trailer, what message Bigelow wants to convey with this movie, but it’s certainly not a memorial. Its focus doesn’t seem to be history either. If it was told as a documentary, it would be appropriate. Even a drama would work. But all you have to do is listen to two seconds of the preview’s dramatic voice-over to know that this is going to be some macho, testosterone-fueled flashy action film with little substance. Even if the movie’s a good idea in theory (questionable), the execution is all wrong.
3. Bigelow’s Track Record
Bigelow’s most well know film is The Hurt Locker, about the Iraq war. It won an absurd amount of awards, including an Oscar for Best Director. It’s hard to objectively say it was a bad movie. But it’s easy to objectively say it’s an inaccurate movie. Response from Iraq veterans was largely negative. The uniforms, the military procedures, and the tough-guy attitudes of the lead characters were inaccurate enough to be considered offensive, or at least laughable, by those who knew better. Several key plot points, like lack of communication gear and characters splitting up to “cover more ground” would never have occurred in real life. If Bigelow didn’t portray scenes from the Iraq war — where information was far more prevalent — well, what’s to say she’ll portray bin Laden’s capture in any sort of factually competent manner?
Those are the three things that irk me the most when I see Zero Dark Thirty previews. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comment section! Also, you can read a more optimistic post here http://reelmovienation.com/kathryn-bigelows-zero-dark-thirty-trailer/ and learn all the production info.
For better or worse, Zero Dark Thirty will be released December 19th.