Garrett Harris 10:11 p.m., May 23
Afterimage: Zero Dark Thirty
Not so much a meditation as a nitpick, but still.
Hey, if Batman can hack every cell phone in Gotham...
Okay, so you've all seen Zero Dark Thirty and then spent 15-20 hours online, debating the film's depiction of torture and its possible efficacy in obtaining information crucial to finding and killing UBL.
(While we're on the ethical-debate side of things, would it have killed them to have one moment of someone in a meeting asking about the legal/moral ramifications of executing a dude, even a very bad dude, without the benefit of trial? I mean, hell, Saddam Hussein was regarded as a bad enough dude that we invaded his country and toppled his government, but even he got taken alive and tried. Further, how about a question concerning the legal/moral ramifications of executing a dude on someone else's turf? I mean, last I checked, these questions of sovereignty mattered a lot. Except this time. I'm not saying we needed a lot of hand-wringing, but are we really to believe that nobody said anything along these lines? That it was all, "We found 'im, let's kill 'im!" from the get-go?)
But questions of ethics aside, what about practical questions? In particular, practical questions as they pertain to storytelling - the way the movie presents the events it treats? The mechanics of the film are built around the massive, coordinated, messy effort to procure tiny, significant pieces of information that would eventually, after years and years, lead to success. (And even then, a certain amount of luck was required - "Hey, look what I found while I was going through the archives!") Painstaking is the watchword.
But at some point, I fear that director Kathryn Bigelow must have glanced at her watch and said, "We're running long. Time for some wizardry." Because I can't think of how else to account for the magic cell-phone find. You know, the scene where tech-boy drops a phone in front of Jessica Chastain and tells him that every time her target makes a call, the phone he just gave her will ring. Naturally, she is overjoyed. This is the big break she needed.
But how's that again? This film has been relentless is showing is exactly how things get done, in emphasizing detail and procedure. And then suddenly, it's time for unexplained techno-solutions. "Oh, yeah, I just defribblized his cross-trackulation patterns, and wiznatched the QPC signal. Won't be long now." Put another way:
Please, tell me I'm wrong here. Cuz otherwise, ZDT cheated at its own game, which is a little sad. If you're going to emphasize process over meaning, you've got to go all in on process.