*Should I even write ‘there will be spoilers’? when we all know how the narrative ended? Bah.*
Is it sacrilegious to be reminded of the hit TV series Homeland while watching Kathryn Bigelow’s latest cinematic offering? While the lead in this movie
(the wonderful Jessica Chastain) is far from being a neurotic, bipolar, wine-glugging, love-struck Claire Danes, it must be said that it was Chastain’s portrayal of Maya, the girl, no, the motherf*#@!~^ who got Osama Bin Laden that makes the film not just coherent, but also and more importantly, intelligent. Minus the histrionics of Danes, thank heavens.
This is not your typical action movie, no. Actually, it’s more of a spy-thriller more than action. It requires more concentration and patience (the movie is about 2 hours and 40 minutes long) than your garden-variety adrenaline-packed Hollywood movie. It requires more thought. Why? Because it will demand something from you in the end.
Understanding, perhaps, of what happened, and how it all happened— the hunt for who used to be the #1 terrorist on the planet.
The movie opens on that fateful day back in 2001. Thankfully, we don’t see images, just audio amidst a black screen. I don’t think anyone can handle seeing the actual footage, heck, not even a dramatization of what happened in New York that September. Audio was enough to remind the audience. And from there, the narrative rolled.
Oh it was a 10 year roll.
While I appreciate the length and breadth devoted to the gathering of intel, showing the lives sacrificed in the process of acquisition, and finally presenting the coup de grâce, the killing of Bin Laden ten years after that attack that killed 3,000 innocent civilians, I must say I had a problem with how the narrative unfolded. I wasn’t too invested in it. I think it’s because I didn’t care much about the characters onscreen. Oh I realize that the characters, particularly Maya (she’s the one that holds everything together, narrative-wise), are all brave, patriotic, smart people, sure. But I didn’t care much about them. There was no investment on my part to care for any of them. It was all too cut and dry presentation of what happened in history. Fine. History is history. But a big chunk of ‘history’ (whatever that word means) is STORY. And stories are fueled by people. They are not just individuals with names. They have lives. I never got to see that. So I ended up not caring.
That was a tough call, I guess. How do you make the audience care about the story when they already know how the story will end? On the one hand you have to realize that you are dealing with documents and facts and whatever else that made the ending possible (again, ten years’ worth of intel), and on the other, you also have to realize that while it is based on actual events, you do have to fictionalize it to make it more cinematic; to make everything logical and dramatic at the same time. How do you walk that line?
While the film is intelligent, yes, I felt it lacked that emotional investment that is essential to allowing the audience to care. I think Bigelow went too intense with the one hand at the expense of the other. The result is a finely-tuned narration of what happened in the course of finding and ultimately killing OBL, yes. But again, by the end of it all, I didn’t care. I mean, I (like everyone on this planet) already knew before the end how it will all end. So by the time the inevitable happened onscreen. . . .that was it? Wham, bam, thank you Ma’am.
Was it the very intention of Ms. Bigelow for us not to care too much? Because truly, it kinda felt like watching the evening news, with the added feature of seeing Chastain’s fabulous performance. It was gripping, oh yes. Remember, we want to know how it all happened. And we saw it onscreen. Then again, so what? I’ve seen more riveting narratives on the National Geographic channel.
I also didn’t like the choppiness of the narrative. It wasn’t seamless at all. I guess that contributed to me vacillating with my already minimal emotional investment with the film.
Good effort all around. Just wasn’t totally impressed by it.