Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

January 8, 2013

CALLERI: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Promised Land’ go behind the headlines

Niagara Gazette — During the Golden Age Of Hollywood, the major motion picture studios would release, on average, a new movie every week, occasionally more. Adding smaller production companies such as Republic Pictures, RKO and David O. Selznick to the mix meant that American audiences could have seen at least 500 brand-new pictures a year. Double-bills were the norm in every neighborhood in every city and village in the country.

The studios and their producers, directors and screenwriters needed material by the truckload, and moviemaking teams scoured libraries, the Broadway theater scene and newspapers for new story ideas. Many of these features were promoted as being “ripped straight from today’s headlines.”

And, it’s from the headlines that we have a pair of new openings: “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Promised Land.”

“Zero Dark Thirty” is from director Kathryn Bigelow and her screenwriter Mark Boal, the duo that gave us the Academy Award-winning best picture “The Hurt Locker.” Their new effort is a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, a hunt that began in earnest after the attacks of 9/11. Does anyone not know the outcome? The film opens with sound, but no images, from the siege of the World Trade Center in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001 and culminates with bin Laden’s death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in Abbottabad, Pakistan, during the early morning hours of May 2, 2011.

We can safely assume that hundreds upon hundreds of active C.I.A. and military personnel were looking for bin Laden’s whereabouts, but the movie is a procedural that concentrates primarily on the work of one C.I.A. operative, a determined woman named Maya (tensely well-played by Jessica Chastain). She is relatively new to the spy agency, but the eager Maya devotes her life to finding and killing bin Laden. The film opens with scenes of aggressive torture of suspected terrorists by an American agent (Jason Clarke).

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