Zero Dark Thirty is Mediocre and You Shouldn’t Bother With It

Pretty self-explanatory. This is one of those times where I look at Rotten Tomatoes and scratch my head. How did ZDT get 93%? More bafflingly, I can’t understand the reviewers’ effusive praise. It is not “exhilarating”. It is not “thrilling”. Most certainly it is not a “masterpiece”.

Here are some ways I can describe it:

  • Every major sequence is 50% too long
  • Random events that do not add anything to the story
  • Uneven pacing
  • Artificial suspense inserted like clockwork
  • Too. Many. Desk scenes.
  • Nothing about any of the characters that makes you want to care
  • Tries too hard to be “gritty” and “authentic”, ends up being emotionless and boring.

Consider Star Trek Into Darkness. It contained gaping plot holes. It had lots of eye-roll-worthy moments. It was a grievous departure from the spirit of the original series. But at least it was entertaining, combining the best ingredients of a mindless summer blockbuster. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

Zero Dark Thirty is ultimately an empty shell of a film. It has elicited strong reactions, both good and bad, partly because I think people are projecting their own thoughts and biases onto the fascinating and controversial subject matter. But a movie can be about something interesting and yet still be poorly made. Regardless of what you may think about the ethics of torture, or the degrading of our humanity, or America’s tarnished standing, or whatever, ZDT is confusing, dull and long.

If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t waste your time with it.

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