Ticked another Best Picture nominee off my list today. Kathryn Bigelow's, long-awaited by me, Zero Dark Thirty.
Before I get to my review, however, here's a play-by-play of the equally entertaining pre-show.
(Scroll past asterisks if you just can't wait for it.)
I, par for my reputation, stood in the shortest but slowest line for my ticket and popcorn. Salted my purchase, hoarded a sapling's worth of napkins and entered Theater Two, only to discover I had my pick of the completely uninhabited seats. I chose a non-sticky one on the aisle about mid-deep and settled in.
Shortly after, I hear two or three younger male voices settle in towards the back. Five minutes later, hear an usher's voice asking to review ticket stubs.
He peruses the first stub, "Are you at least seventeen?" I hear a, "No," answered back. (Since when did teenagers lose their ability to lie?) "You can't be in here without an adult if you're under the age of seventeen." This conversation repeats itself twice more and I find myself alone again. (Strangely enough, I had pulled my ticket as well, but nobody bothered checking it. Or, my age for that matter. Hmph!)
Well, the act of pulling out my stub out led me to realize that the movie was to start at 2:40, not 2:20. Geezo Petes! I ventured to the lobby restroom to kill a little time and empty up for the 2.5 hour trip that has now become a 2.83 hour one. Reentered Theater Two to discover the company of about eight or nine more patrons.
The most vocal of which had parked themselves across the aisle from where I'd left my coat. A duo of eighty-ish white haired birdies, LOUDLY conversing about who has the better ear doctor. "No, Gladys. I go to the one on Inskster and Northwestern. Don't you know EVERYBODY goes to that one!"
Gladys: "Well, I have an appointment Wednesday at Dr. Shaeffer's."
Gladys's friend: "Everybody goes to my doctor. My daughter had the Meniere's Disease. She's deaf now in one ear. Completely deaf! And, Bob wears a hearing aid. My mother did too. Not that it runs in the family..."
Gladys: "Well, it DOES run in your family. You don't hear well either! So, what does your daughter do with her ear. Wear a hearing aid?"
Gladys's friend: "No, Gladys! She is completely deaf! A hearing aid won't fix that. You can't fix deaf. And, YOU have hearing problems too!"
Gladys: "Well, we'll see about that on Wednesday." (I then silently awarded the prize for Best Ear Doctor to neither's.)
Through the previews Gladys's friend delighted in the appearance of Robert Downey Jr., "Ooh. The Iron Man!" As the feature begins, "Now, here we go! This is history, Gladys! You pay good attention!" When the film snapped five minutes into it, Gladys got anxious. "What do we do?" Her friend assured her, "Just sit here. We'll let the people who got up figure it out. The worst that will happen is they refund our money." A mere 60 seconds passed before the movie was up and running again.
I quickly absorbed into the story and nearly forgot Gladys's presence... but, was reminded once again during a water-boarding scene. "This is true, Gladys! This really happened! This is what that Dick Cheney was all into..." Sigh.
Now, onto what you all clicked this link to really read: My review.
I had read Mark Owen's No Easy Day last year immediately following its release. This left me with an insatiable appetite to see the story set to film.
"Mark Owen" being the alias of one of the Seal Team Six members who penned the account of his early military life, leading into his career as a Navy Seal and ultimately into a play-by-play of the Bin Laden assassination. His rigorous training, camaraderie with military brothers, and the gut-wrenching danger of his many famous missions, controversially, all laid out to bare in this unique and riveting memoir.
I couldn't wait to see what Hollywood would do with an action-packed Seal-perspective version of the mission.
But, in Owen's story there is a female CIA officer. The one whose tireless work unearthed Public Enemy #1's location. The one whose entire career was focused solely on this mission. As I read, I thought to myself, "If they ever make No Easy Day into a movie, boy are they going to glam up this role and give it the Angelina Jolie treatment!"
But, they didn't make the No Easy Day movie. Enter Kathryn Bigleow, Jessica Chastain and Zero Dark Thirty.
There's nothing modern Hollywood loves more than a tough-as-nails heroine with a potty mouth that holds its own against any barking man in uniform. They took this character and ran with it. But, this character isn't necessarily the one whose day-to-day work life you're dying to be a fly on the wall of.
The film wades through two full hours of CIA investigating and red tape before the final half hour of the actual mission. Yes, this is the female lead's story. She's not the one climbing mountains, offing bad guys in their sleep and zip-lining out of helicopters day into night, night into day. She sits at a computer. She has conference meetings. She makes phone calls and performs interviews. As far as what her story has to offer, Bigelow did it well.
By the time fictionalized Seals finally grace the screen, maybe thirty minutes before the movie's end, they come off almost puppy-like. One Golden Retriever, one Shepherd, one Pit Bull, you name it. All breeds represented. Nothing but muscle and machine. Big, brawny dummies. Thick as boards, cocky and licensed to kill.
The details of the military side of the mission and its preparations were just breezed past without care or explanation. I wanted to start shouting out extra information I learned from the book to help the audience better understand. "They built an entire replica of the compound for training! Complete with doors that swung in or out the right way", "That's just the perimeter gate they're at! There's more door explosions to come", "That team was supposed to enter from the roof!", "That was the courier they just shot!", "They thought the women would be wearing suicide vests. That's why they said that!", "Nope! That's just the brother! Just you wait!", "They pulled DNA from the body too, you know. Not just digital pics!", etc., etc., etc.
But, alas, Hollywood never did cherish its military as much as it did its spies.
I still think No Easy Day would have been the more interesting take on the assassination. But, now that this version is out---and has even stolen bits of the book's dialogue---I doubt we'll see that day come.
Kathryn Bigelow is a wonderful director. The film is well-acted (at times, over-acted.) And, the cinematography brilliantly finds beauty in otherwise unbeautiful locations.
Is it worthy of its nominations? Sure. But, if you're anything like me, you may want to see Zero Dark Thirty first and then read Mark Owen's story to fill in the missing pieces. You'll save yourself some frustration that way.
As for Gladys and her friend? I can't tell you what they thought. The ladies were finally stone silent by the time the credits rolled. This could be a sign of awe. Or, confusion. Or, simply the midst of an elderly person's afternoon nap.