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Hollywood’s Raid on Convention

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Posted on Dec 15, 2012
AP/Sony - Columbia Pictures

By Richard Schickel

(Page 2)

At this level, this honorable and ambitious film succeeds, particularly in this truly dismal season of last-minute assaults on meaningless awards rolls toward its climax. I have no way of knowing whether the events it recounts will seem, in 50 or 100 years, worth revisiting. For now, though, “Zero Dark Thirty” seems too close to its topic, sometimes too conventional in the ways it rather sluggishly explicates it. Of the many virtues demanded of the historian, patience is perhaps the largest. Nothing would have been lost had they waited a few more years to make it.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot. I promised to contribute my mite to the torture debate the film has engendered. No question about it, the sequence is very long and extremely vivid. And officialdom is pretty much saying it never indulged in anything like what “Zero Dark Thirty” portrays. I don’t think that is necessarily true. And I don’t think the pleasure the helpless victim’s chief tormentor takes in administering it is necessarily exaggerated. I’ve always assumed that, all pieties aside, the United States of America has its fair share of cheerful sadists and that we can find plenty of use for their talents. It’s an ugly sequence and you should feel utterly free to visit the popcorn counter while it drags on and on. But I’m a movie reviewer—I’ve seen as bad or worse many times. For me, it goes with the territory. This movie’s real problems arise in far less heated areas.

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