Posts Tagged ‘jessica chastain’

Five minutes into this movie, and I was struck by something – not the saliva dripping lollipop that the guy behind me had just chucked – but rather that, in order to truly enjoy this film – you need a brain. I’m not saying that any grey matter will do, monkeys for example – probably not a fan. But if you go into this film with misconceptions about what to expect, then you are already destined to fail. Zero Dark Thirty charters the years spent after 9/11 by various CIA operatives to track down Osama Bin Laden. Before this film even hit theatres, people were calling it nothing but ‘Liberal propaganda’ and ‘biased junk’. I can see why people would assume that was what Zero Dark Thirty is, but on closer inspection you can clearly see that neither the Bush regime, nor Obama’s time in office is particularly looked upon well.

Firstly, we’re shown the darker side of the USA’s war on terror… the side that made the papers and outraged millions – torture. Watching the prisoners suffer made me uncomfortable – and after all, what kind of world would we live in if it didn’t. They may be terrorists, or at least suspected terrorists, but seeing anyone scream in pain, especially when based on real events, made me uneasy. After Obama came in, the torture went out and was replaced with a slow moving system – that possibly cost lives. Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, pushed and pushed to get the intelligence she’d gathered taken seriously. But the people above her were often more worried about looking bad politically if it was the wrong call. And so yes, the torture portrayed did make Bush look bad. But at the same time, throughout the movie they make the point that they wouldn’t have the lead which led to Osama without it.

Now, with all the controversy out of the way, let’s get to the actual film. Zero Dark Thirty is at times hard to follow, but so it should be. If the average Joe could understand the plot easily, well then it wouldn’t be a true representation of the obstacles overcome by these extraordinary individuals. The film basically follows Maya, as she is dropped into Pakistan having been recruited to the agency straight from High School. She’s committed, and you see that from day one. Unsurprisingly she gets ridiculed for her age and her looks, and finds it difficult for people to take her seriously. This toughens her up and by the end of the film she is very much a woman I wouldn’t want to mess with. The sass she had at the beginning of the film, very much morphs into a hardened shell. Chastain is probably at her best. While I haven’t always rated her highly, I definitely feel she stepped up to the plate in what must have been a huge daunting task. Her performance as Maya is likeable but not enough to deter you from the main premise of the movie – the hunt for Osama. Kathryn Bigelow allows just enough of Maya’s personality to shine through to endear her, but doesn’t allow the movie to become all about ‘Maya’s hunt for Osama’; because it is very much a team effort.

Director Kathryn Bigelow also managed to bring home the reality that these are real people. We live in a society glamorised by Hollywood, and it is easy to forget sometimes that the CIA aren’t the really like ‘Borne’ or ‘Bond’. They are real people, with real families who are trying to keep the world safe. I found that a little unsettling. It was a dim reality that showed how vulnerable we are, that there isn’t some great power out there to save us. Because, they don’t always succeed.

But Zero Dark Thirty is ultimately about when they did succeed. And by the end of the film, we are shown the assault on Osama’s compound in Pakistan. The use of night vision goggles, interchanging with the dark made the whole scenario seem more unsettling. And while the men who went into that compound seemed ultimately bad ass, you also had the same sense of realism. They weren’t superheroes. They were just doing a job.

Overall, there is a good performances all round for the ensemble cast. I was particularly impressed with Jason Clarke and Jessica Chastain. And I think, with all things considered – and how wrong this movie could have easily gone – this is a solid film that fairly and accurately portrays the hunt for Osama. An engrossing watch.


If you know anything about John Madden’s espionage thriller, The Debt, then like a lot of people you probably grumbled over the premise. Another Holocaust movie, really? Again? Well, actually that couldn’t be more wrong. The Debt isn’t the tale of the holocaust, there isn’t an SS uniform in sight. It isn’t the tale of the struggle of the Jews, and those who tried to shield them. Instead, it tells the story of three Mossad agents, sent to Berlin in 1965, to track down and kill a Nazi doctor known as the Surgeon of Birkenau, Dr Vogel. There is obviously supposed to be some parallels with Josef Mengele – who performed horrifying experiments on Jews in concentration camps, often without anaesthetic – and is probably the most famous SS doctor.  Mengele himself, avoided capture until he drowned in 1979 in Buenos Aires. The Debt tells the story a little differently…

From the off, you have to be impressed by the ensemble cast. Dame Helen Mirren’s name carries a lot of weight in show business, and I was very impressed with her performance as per usual. Joining her was Jessica Chastain, who has had a rather undulating career. That being said, she is still young and does has the acting chops, and if she keeps picking roles like this – she is sure to gain a lot of respect within the industry. Mirren and Chastain play the same character, just 32 years a part. Rachel Singer was the young, inexperienced, yet highly trained Massod agent sent to Berlin to join the two other agents in capturing their target and bringing him back to Israel for trial.  And while I really don’t think Chastain and Mirren look at all a like, the performances from both actresses made the whole thing believable. Rachel, of the three agents, had the hardest task. She was to go to the Surgeon, now a gynaecologist under an assumed name, and confirm his identity. Once this was done, they would strike and smuggle him out of Germany and back to Israel. Given he is a gynaecologist, that involved several, unnerving trips to see him with fertility problems.

If you’re female, you will know that any trip to the gynaecologist is unnerving. You’re at your most vulnerable, and its not a pleasant experience. Couple that with knowing the guy whose poking around in your special place is a man who has committed unspeakable atrocities – and he doesn’t want to get caught and keeps asking his patient questions… well, saying Rachel was on edge would be an understatement.  Jesper Christensen did a really good job playing Vogel also. He had just enough bedside manner and charisma to make him seem both normal and sinister at the same time. Knowing who he was and what he had done, and seeing the veil he was portraying only excelled his latter performances when he revealed his true colours.

But The Debt isn’t just about the mission, and what happened on the mission. Ultimately it is about the mistakes we make when we are young, that we still come to regret and hold on to years later. Kieran Hinds (who seems to be in everything at the moment) and Sam Worthington played David, the second of the Massod agents, and the one with clearly the most intent to see the mission through. When things go wrong and the group are forced to lie about the Surgeons fate, this leads to a lie that haunts all three of them for three decades. None more so than David, who lost his whole family in the gas chambers, and at one point says all he wants in life is for the world to know and accept what really happened. And that can only happen with a trial. The regret that David feels is ultimately intertwined with his love for Rachel, and the relationship they never got to have.

In the end, the problem is clear. It is not that they lied about what happened to the Surgeon, it was that they were still doing it thirty years later. I don’t want to ruin the film if you haven’t seen it, but eventually a crisis in conscience occurs, and culminates in Rachel meeting the Surgeon one last time, all those years later. If you didn’t already know, Helen Mirren is bad ass and she proves it here once again. And somehow I found her fight scenes much more exciting than the Bourne-esque Chastain fights scenes from earlier in the film. Maybe its just the fact that there is such a good essence of time in the film, and that Madden has managed to precisely nail the thirty year crescendo on the head until it exploded. I find similar films often have a good twisting build up, but the finale is never as good as the journey. For me, The Debt waited just long enough to build the tension and for us to watched on nervously as we saw what became of Rachel and Vogel’s fate all those years later.

For the most part, the only bad things people have to say about The Debt is:
a) Why do none of the young/old versions of each other look alike? They do have a point.
b) And why is this movie called The Debt?

Seriously, who do they owe something to? If you really think about it, that is such a lousy name. Had the film just been about the mission, I’d have said that the debt was what the Mossad agents were repaying Vogel – by bringing him to justice. On the other hand you could have a bear sized stretch and say it was a debt they owed to society in telling the truth.

Overall, a good solid performance from all those involved. The plot was a bit weak at times, but what it lacked in the writing it made up for in the direction. The Debt is a holocaust movie with a different twist, yet without sacrificing the gravity behind the situation. I recommended watch. Check out the trailer below.