Saturday, February 2, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Plot:  Dan (Jason Clarke)  and Maya (Jessica Chastain) are CIA analysts assigned to catching Ussama bin Laden in Pakistan. Early on, they are questioning and torturing prisoners. Later Maya begins to track a courier for bin Laden, Abu Ahmed. This takes years, but eventually she goes to Washington to convince higher-ups to make a military attack. The movie concludes with action scenes of the raid and bin Laden's death. 

Review: Zero Dark Thirty is a gritty movie about messy, dirty, ugly parts of counter-terrorism. One of the ugliest parts is the torture of al Qaida prisoners, which takes up the first third of the movie. In the middle, Jessica Chastain gets tough to jump start the hunt bin Laden. She has a few powerful scenes that seemed realistic. The final raid is suspenseful and fast-paced.

The best part is the documentary value of learning about the search and the raid. Now, this is a Hollywood movie, and I know director Bigelow was going for suspense, drama, and reasonable running time, and that therefore many details are inaccurate.  The worst part is that it is not that fun to watch.

After I left the theater, I kept thinking about the morality of the torture and the midnight raid. Did so many people need to die in the early morning raid on the bin Laden compound? It seemed like one woman was killed accidentally. Given that no one was sure who lived there, why was there such a strong bias toward killing the occupants?

As a film, the photography was OK, and the soundtrack was not memorable. The helicopter assault scenes were good. 

Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

Rating: 3.0 stars: educational, thought provoking, not fun

More: .I continue to wonder how accurate Zero Dark Thirty was. I think it is an artist's impression of the facts with a bias to making the story dramatic.  It makes me want to read a book on it. 


Silver Linings Playbook

Plot: Teacher Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) gets out of mental hospital and moves in with his parents Dolores (Jacki Weaver) and Eagles Football super fan Pat Sr (Robert De Niro.) Pat got committed to the hospital for a fist fight with his wife Niki's lover. Pat is determined to get Niki back by getting his life together. However Niki has a restraining order on him, and he can't get near her. His mom sets him up with Tiffany, (Jennifer Lawrence,) who is/was also mental ill. 

In the hospital Pat has adopted a positive thinking philosophy that concentrates on finding silver linings for bad things that happen. That is where the title comes from.

Pat and Tiffany flirt, and soon Tiffany signs Pat up for a dance contest. They start practicing modern dance moves while Tiffany sneaks letters to Niki. 

Meanwhile Pat Senior is deep into magical thinking  superstitions to get the Eagles to win, and he is gambling big money. 

In the end, the dance contest and a pivotal Eagles playoff game happen on the same night leading to the inevitable end.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Silver Linings Playbook is a black romantic-comedy with the twist being mental illness of the characters. Silver Linings doesn't probe the meaning of mental illness: more  that everyone is more or less neurotic. Most of the humor comes from the strange compulsions and maladaptions of Pat and his family. 

I liked the movie because Pat and Tiffany are quirky and good-hearted, and that Pat Sr's goofy football antics provide levity. 

The script delivers clever lines for the whole cast and De Niro, Cooper and Lawrence are up to the challenge with a full range of emotion delivered though the window of altered mental states. 

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

Directed by: David Russell, based on the novel by Matthew Quick

Rating: 3.5 stars