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Zero Dark Boring

Zero Dark Thirty, another film were I walk out of the cinema wondering what all the fuss was about after being bored for way too long. If this was a usual occurrence, I’d expect it, but it isn’t. I don’t have a history of rampant ‘rage against the Zeitgeist’, but I was expecting great things from Zero Dark Thirty and what I got was one of the most boring and mind numbing 157-minutes I’ve ever experience.

When the reviewers were wailing on about whether the film advocates torture or not they forgot to mention that suffering through the film is a form of torture in and off itself.

There is probably a whole host of reasons why I didn’t enjoy the experience, but they all fall into the category of it being boring, primarily through the film doing everything it can to ensure you don’t give a shit. You don’t care if they find him. You don’t care about the procrastination to act once they do. You even find yourself not that bothered about the torture scenes in the first section of the film, you’re just thinking ‘just tell them already as I’m bored’. It should have made you uncomfortable, but it doesn’t.

What happens when a film falls between being a documentary and a drama? Zero Dark Thirty is what happens and the result isn’t very interesting. That’s what it felt like, a documentary without all the extra details and fourth wall breaking that makes a documentary interesting. What you have is the dry, ‘dramatic’ interpretation of events that you might see spread throughout a documentary but 157 minutes of them, one after another, without any of the extra elements that make a documentary challenging and insightful. In fact, the film is more dry and ‘factual’ than most ‘dramatic’ inserts in a documentary!

All this is magnified by the fact the central character is a complete shell. A husk. A non-entity. You don’t get anything from her. Apart from a few pained expressions when she first sees torture and a few tears at the end, neither of which have that much impact, she might as well have been played by a robot. I’m not expecting overwrought melodrama, but there didn’t seem anything in the script, the acting or the way things were shot to engender any feeling at all. It just happened. You didn’t hate her, you didn’t feel sorry for her, you don’t become agitated due to the situation or find yourself wanting her to succeed. The rest of the characters sit in orbit of her and have even less purpose.

Eventually, the film gets to its money shot. The trouble is, the raid on the compound is as boring as the rest of the film. Again, I’m not expecting some Michael Bay action sequence, but it just doesn’t get you feeling anything. It’s very dispassionate. Black Hawk Down it ain’t, for instance. The feeling throughout the raid is ‘find and shoot him already as I want to get out of here and I’m falling asleep’.

I should address the question of whether it advocates torture? Well, I don’t think the film actually adopts a position, but it seems quite clear to me, according to the films version of events, that it did provide information that added to the pot that eventually resulted in finding Bin Laden. It also states, quite clearly, that some characters were angry over the loss of that source of information. Still, I rapidly became quite disengaged from the whole travesty, so if anyone was to debate this with me in detail I’m not sure I could hold up my end.

The difference is I don’t overly care what the film ‘says’ about torture.

Ultimately I’m left confused as to what this film adds over and above a thorough documentary on events? Not much in my view.

About Ian O'Rourke

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