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November 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Judging from early trade reviews, director Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is everything that her Hurt Locker was: a harrowing drama that is likely to receive overwhelming praise from critics, earn numerous awards — even, perhaps, a heap of Oscars — but bomb — no pun intended — at the box office. The raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan is depicted in only the last half-hour of a movie that runs two-and-a-half hours. As for the first two hours, Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter notes that many scenes “will be tough for some viewers to take, not only for its early scenes of torture, including waterboarding, but due to its denial of conventional emotionalism and non-gung ho approach to cathartic revenge-taking. Films touching on 9/11, such as United 93, World Trade Center, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, have proven commercially toxic, and while this one has a ‘happy’ ending, its rigorous, unsparing approach will inspire genuine enthusiasm among the serious, hardcore film crowd more than with the wider public.” And while the film has previously been described as a movie about the raid that killed Bin Laden, the movie instead focuses on the work of a female CIA officer who rejected the conventional belief that he was holed up in a cave in Afghanistan and who pieced together the information that led to his hiding place in Pakistan. “Dramatically speaking the raid feels almost anti-climactic, writes Daily Variety‘s Peter Debruge. Nevertheless, he observes, “it’s fair to let Bigelow overturn narrative expectations to some degree. The ultra-professional result may be easier to respect than enjoy, but there’s no denying its power.” Tim Grierson of Britain’s Screen Daily concludes that it “should do well with critics and Academy voters alike, but those expecting a simplistic, slam-bang action movie may be turned off by the thoughtful build-up that eventually gives way to a riveting ending in which the U.S. executes its risky assault on bin Laden’s compound.” But Grierson hedges his bet, observing that “in a season when expert adult dramas like Argo and Lincoln have found box office success, Zero Dark Thirty could become a sleeper hit.” Sony is set to open the film in limited release on Dec. 19 and to go wide with it in January.