Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

January 8, 2013

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


Niagara Gazette —

Once a key clue is learned in the field — the fact that bin Laden has a courier who shuttles information back and forth — “Zero Dark Thirty” then takes us into the corridors of real U.S. government power (James Gandolfini is the C.I.A. director), where only Maya is 100 percent certain that bin Laden is hiding in a large house in Abbottabad. The final third of the movie, which plays like a less flashy, more somber Jason Bourne film (it’s never unserious like a James Bond spy picture), shows us the assault on bin Laden’s lair, mostly seen from the viewpoint of American combatants wearing night-vision goggles.

Across the board, the acting is exceptional, but I think Bigelow and Boal’s “The Hurt Locker” is clearly a better film. It has a much stronger lead character at its core and the tension is omnipresent. “Zero Dark Thirty” clicks along, but at 157 minutes it begins to drag. Concentrating on Maya’s research and analysis creates problems. I understand the reasoning, but she’s not as interesting as the director and screenwriter think she is. Scenes of her detailed examination of facts become repetitive.

“Zero Dark Thirty” is good, well-crafted and accomplishes what it wants to do. It’s a solid work of pro-American military propaganda, which is not to be taken as criticism. However, it’s up to the audience to decide if this is propaganda for the Obama administration, a decision some have claimed, but one that’s left open-ended. The president is mentioned, but he’s not a character in the movie. Overall, the film offers an interesting, albeit imperfect historical perspective, but not one that closes the chapter on this event by any means.

“Promised Land” tackles the volatile subject of fracking, which calls for a specific and controversial method for extracting natural gas from the earth. Some landowners who lease their property can suddenly find themselves without financial worries. Some homeowners can find themselves staring at flames shooting out of their kitchen faucet.

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