Monday, January 7, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty and The Impossible

          Sometimes Big Girls Do Cry … But Only for a Good Reason

                     Review by Ken Burke             Zero Dark Thirty

Based (even if we’re not clear how) on the actual assault on Osama bin Laden, this suspenseful account gives a sense of (at least) cinematic closure to that event.

                                                                            The Impossible

Another fictionalized version of a real story, a horrible tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004 and the heroic actions of a family to reunite despite overwhelming odds.

              Two Guys wish all of you a happy and prosperous 2013!

As we celebrate the new year with our first review the focus is on 2 of the last probable Oscar contenders to get exposure in the San Francisco area (although 2 other foreign-based entries of note—the officially-also-Belgian-but-virtually-French Rust and Bone [Jacques Audiard] is already playing in The City [as we snobbishly call it], generating talk about Best Picture and Best Actress for previous-winner Marion Cotillard, and Amour [Michael Haneke] which is being touted as a strong contender for Best Foreign Language Picture, if not overall Best Picture as well, and might even offer up surprise acting nominations for leads Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva—are still to come for Two Guys’ reviews as they become more available), both of which are seemingly strong contenders in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and probably a good many technical categories as well (one of the great strengths of Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible), plus a strong shot at Best Original Screenplay for Kathryn Bigelow’s tensely-powerful Zero Dark Thirty, written by Mark Boal.  Bigelow herself is almost assured of being a Best Director nominee, which would mark one of the very few times that a woman has been accorded this honor (with her as the only recipient of the statue, for 2008’s The Hurt Locker, beating out her ex-husband, James Cameron, that year in both the helmsperson’s category and for Best Picture [topping his Avatar, although that one still reigns supreme both domestically and worldwide regarding box-office receipts]).  As with her previous government/military-themed film, Bigelow shows herself to be confident and competent in structuring stories that generate suspense and intrigue even when the outcomes are already known (it’s no secret that the military is full of over-stressed re-enlistees who keep going back into Middle East combat nor that Osama bin Laden has been dead since May 2, 2011).  As with Ben Affleck’s Argo (a major competitor with Bigelow for Picture and Director, although both may bow to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln—real predictions here in about a month), or with The Impossible for that matter (or Lincoln or even Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables, although it fictionalizes known historical matters even more than any of the others noted above), the director’s chief task with known-ending films is to make an audience feel that they can’t fully trust what they know to be true as encounters unfold on screen to seemingly dispute or seriously threaten the pre-determined outcome.  (With Les Mis the only one of this group not having to be so concerned with that limitation:  watching the deaths of Fantine and Valjean is part of the anticipated emotional journey of this film—don’t you dare give me any Spoiler Alerts crap here!; if this is a surprise to you then start with Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel and work your way through various other media until you get well into the 21st century—so we know what’s coming and accept the known fates of these protagonists, whereas the other films noted above must constantly find strategies to build tension for the audience in the telling of their tales rather than in us learning whether there will be relief in the climax or not—a similar condition to Sacha Gervasi‘s Hitchcock, another reality-based 2012 possible Oscar contender if Helen Mirren should get a Best Actress slot, where we’re given seemingly good reason to sweat Hitch’s post-Psycho fate even while we know all along that it crowns his career rather than demolishing it.)

Admittedly, most entertainment plots in movies also have to create necessary dramatic tension by working temporarily against audience expectations that things will eventually turn out right for the lead characters, even when they seem to be in mortal danger (we’re not about to go to the latest version of Batman or James Bond assuming there might be a funeral for our constant heroes at the end of the story—although Bruce Wayne managed to pull off a version of that in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises this past summer so he could retire himself from the burdens of being the Caped Crusader, just as we lost what we now have to accept as an interchangeable MI-6 director in the role of M [Judi Dench most recently, now replaced by Ralph Fiennes] in Sam Mendes’ Skyfall a couple of months ago), but in Zero Dark Thirty Bigelow has a more pressing problem of keeping us interested in spook-driven process because we are certain before we encounter the first seconds of darkness on screen along with frantic 9/11/01 Twin-Tower-tragedy audio (filling our consciousness and slamming us back into America’s darkest days of our emerging century) that we know what happens in this story, especially how it’s resolved.  That she and Jessica Chastain as the somewhat-fictional CIA agent Maya manage to keep up the suspense and interest, despite those public-record aspects of the narrative for over 10 years of meticulous hunting before we finally get a quick resolution of the quarry in his hidden-in-plain-sight Abbottabad compound, is a tribute to both women and everyone else associated with this film.  Admittedly, as a fictionalized version of a real person whose identity must remain safeguarded, along with being a junior and female member of an experienced, male-dominated team, our Maya has little substance as a fully-explored person and little opportunity to impose herself on her superiors until a combination of her persistence, her increasingly assertive personality, and the plausibility of the evidence that she has gathered over the years in the hunt for bin Laden make it impossible to dismiss her insistence on the reliability of the long-sought terrorist mastermind’s location.  Based on their interviews it’s not clear to me whether Bigelow or Boal (who also got Oscars as Original Screenplay writer and one of the producers of The Hurt Locker) were given direct access to the real version of “Maya” (although they did get a lot of direct information from CIA bigwigs), but Chastain did not so it was all up to her talent to take the character as written and make a presence for her in a film where she gets to have a few powerful scenes but is largely off-camera during long stretches when detainees are being tortured for information (although she’s there, in a very troubled manner, for the first extended version of this, very early on in the film) or when the actual raid is happening and all we can see of her are terse reaction shots as she waits desperately to know if she was right and if the mission can be accomplished (unlike the tragic failed attempt of April 24, 1980 to send in other helicopters and troops to rescue the far larger number of U.S. hostages in Iran than the few we saw escape in Argo).

When it’s all over and Maya is strangely the only passenger in a huge cargo plane escorting her back home, she justifiably breaks down, possibly out of relief at the success of the operation (and the justification it gave to the years that she slavishly dedicated herself to this singular mission) and possibly out of grief for all who died in the 9/11 attacks and the ensuring manhunt for bin Laden, including some CIA agents—one, Jessica (Jennifer Ehle), a close operative of hers—who were duped by a suicide bomber as the result of one line of exploration gone awry.  She certainly wasn’t grieving over the death of bin Laden, whom she exhorted the Navy SEALs to kill in retaliation for both the 9/11 massacre and the assassination of her colleagues, encouraging them to essentially find any excuse to exercise the “dead" aspect of “dead or alive,” just as we saw with the ruthless bounty hunters in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.  In the latter film, we get the idea that there’s justification in the killings in return for past crimes of the wanted but there’s also a sense that it’s just easier for these legally-sanctioned killers to haul around dead bodies than to expend energy on getting hostile prisoners back to a law keeper’s office.  In a similar manner in Zero Dark Thirty there seems to be no hesitation to shoot any potential weapon-holder in the bin Laden compound whether they actually brandish a firearm or only imply they might, including a potentially controversial depiction of the execution of the 9/11 mastermind himself, where he’s quickly shot and hauled away in a body bag, with one of the SEALs taking an assault rifle off the wall above the corpse in a clear indication that he was unarmed when killed.  Certainly in a combat situation such as this there can be no hesitation on the part of the invaders to kill any potential threat to achieving their goal—and there are plenty of clearly innocent women and children spared with no hesitation (nor concern that even children might be deadly, as seen long ago in Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 The Wild Bunch, where the leader of that firepower team, Pike Bishop [William Holden], is finally killed by a bullet in the back from a young boy)—but there’s also no “don’t fire unless fired upon” code of honor in place here either, unlike in the Old West movie tradition hammered into our culture by many decades of more honorable western fictions than what we got with Peckinpah, another aspect of Zero Dark Thirty that increases its veracity.

The successful structuring of the decade-long hunt, the final piecing together of evidence and strategies to locate the long-sought courier Abu Ahmed/Ibrahim Sayeed (Tushaar Mehra) who led the CIA to the compound, and the meticulous staging of the final assault—at times seen subjectively through the eyes of the military team through night-vision goggles—will go a long way toward Bigelow, Boal, Chastain (but none of the other actors will be recognized, although Jason Clarke makes an impact as CIA interrogator Dan, a guy you don’t want to meet at the wrong end of a water board or a dog collar, and James Gandolfini as CIA Director Leon Panetta [although not named as such in the film] is one of the few recognizable faces in the very large cast [President Obama isn’t depicted, except in a news clip on a background TV during his 2008 campaign, stating that the U.S. shouldn’t resort to torture of suspected terrorists in attempts to gain information]), and likely several members of the technical crew receiving Oscar nominations, assuming that the current bipartisan criticism of the CIA by Senate Intelligence Committee members Dianne Feinstein, John McCain, and Carl Levin for either revealing too much to Bigelow and Boal (especially about the implications that torture tactics were useful in following the long and winding road to bin Laden) or for exaggerating interrogation procedures in a manner that duped the filmmakers and leave an incorrect impression of CIA information-gathering methods (along with the desperate attempt to reinforce the “official story” that the U.S.A. doesn’t officially engage in the torture of our enemies—except in those “rare” circumstances where it’s been brutally documented, such as with the revelation of abuse in 2006 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq [not that I have any illusions that any other government is clean where such actions are concerned, but I just wish we wouldn’t claim a level of loftiness that few believe actually exists) doesn’t make the Academy voters skittish about lauding a docudrama that’s causing our government to squirm where they wanted to be celebrating a global victory over terrorism (without being depicted as terrorists themselves).  All of this leads to further considerations about what to praise in eye-for-an-eye revenge stories—although most American viewers would easily see this as an-eye-for-3,000 NY/NJ eyes (and others who just happened to be at the wrong places at the wrong time on 9/11)—and what to condone in tales of brutality.

Pundits through the political and cultural spectrum are now debating the relative merits of what’s depicted in Zero Dark Thirty, but the complexities of the actual situations that inspired this film are for me summed up in 3 statements:  (1) from Dan to the first detainee we see him brutalizing in his quest for information, “When you lie to me, I hurt you,” a vicious statement but one motivated by (2) “We don’t know what we don’t know,” spoken by the CIA team in Islamabad, Pakistan to their chief in debating what to do about Maya’s insistent pursuits in light of the elusiveness of certainty, and, finally, (3) Maya’s own challenge to her superiors, “How can you evaluate the risks of not doing something?”  Taken together, these fierce positions in response to maddening ambiguities show what the protectors of our national security are up against in trying to prevent a second attack in the U.S., made all the more plausible by the ones carried out by al-Qaida-inspired terrorists in Madrid (March 11, 2004; although this tragedy was not directly referenced in Zero Dark Thirty) and London (July 7, 2005; there are some quick scenes showing this one) during this period.  Zero Dark Thirty raises a lot of moral and ethical questions, but in a world where morality and ethics are rarely in play we just have to keep questioning both our political agendas and how our arts should appropriately reflect the results of those evolving policies.

Although, we must also acknowledge that for such vicious deaths as are included in this film with the various bombings and assaults, as well as the horrific torture methods imposed upon suspected terrorists, what’s shown on screen here in a R-rated film is actually very tame compared to the carnage shown in the very appropriately-limited-audience R-rated Django Unchained and even all of the death and destruction in last summer’s The Dark Knight Rises, a point made eloquently by the San Francisco Chronicle’s film critic, Mick LaSalle, in his critique of the constant barrage of dehumanizing violence found in so many easily-accessible media products as he explains at from Jan. 2, 2013, in which he says, “The public has a bigger role, and that's to insist that any movie with any violence at all - any shooting, stabbing, bombing or rape - gets an R rating. If enforced, this would reduce the violence in PG-13 movies and prevent some violent films from getting made. At the same time, Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese will still be able to make their R-rated movies for an adult audience,” a point LaSalle verifies by giving his highest rating to the recent R’s of Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty, clarifying that he’s not against violence per se, just when it’s brazenly done just for shock effect along with the easy access to it in popular entertainment vehicles where it so easily influences and narcotizes us.  (Which doesn’t mean that just because a film is R-rated that it always implies serious subject matter from its creators nor that audiences flock to these more restricted media products for cognitive stimulation, evidenced by this weekend’s box-office champion, Texas Chainsaw 3D [John Luessenhop; debuting with so-far Sunday figures of $23 million], followed closely by Django Unchained [over $100 million in a mere 2 weeks], each playing in over 2,500 theatres while Zero Dark Thirty makes a slow entrance with only about $4.5 million after 3 weeks and playing in only 60 theatres to date; as I noted in my review of Django Unchained, though [this blog, Dec. 30, 2012], I question when extreme violence—even in a satirically-structured form and for purposes of challenging unacceptable social ills—is useful, but in Zero Dark Thirty I feel that the violence depicted is not only historically documented but also put into service of at least raising questions about the validity of political revenge and how—if at all—it is appropriate to be carried out.)

Some will find this film to be riveting, others may be somewhat bored by its clinical focus on a massive CSI-type exploration of faint clues and dead ends until death of the hunted arrives rather unceremoniously at the finale, while others are incensed by how it seems to degrade an event assumed by many to be a cause for national celebration (yet strangely was downplayed, until 2012 campaign time, in a manner quite unlike the hoopla surrounding the capture, then eventual trial and execution of Saddam Hussein in 2003 -2006 [also odd, considering his non-involvement in the 9/11 attacks, but again part of our ongoing culture of political theatre]).  Bigelow and Boal have either forced us into a necessary exploration of more dirty secrets that underlie the enormous amount of security that we in the U.S. enjoy compared to citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Egypt, etc. or they’ve been duped into promoting a CIA line of bull that undermines all we assume in celebrating our relative safety (which raises the related question of why would the CIA offer exaggerated “first-hand accounts” of torture to Bigelow and Boal if they’re trying to enhance their reputation for effectiveness in a climate where such methods have now been condemned for years).  No matter how that debate plays out over the coming months, it will likely not sway Academy voters from offering several Oscar nominations for Zero Dark Thirty, but whether those extra-cinematic distractions will impact their final voting decisions remains to be seen.

In one sense, all that needs to be seen in The Impossible (for all practical purposes a Spanish film but one made with English dialogue and non-Spanish actors so it’s not even a possible consideration for an Oscar “foreign” film, a clarification done years ago by the Academy in making the title of the category Best Foreign Language Film) is the first 15 or so minutes and then the final few because this other impactful Oscar contender is even more streamlined in narrative than Zero Dark Thirty.  In the latter, all we need to know is that the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, the manhunt for its overlord continued for years, and through the insatiable determination of narrowly-focused intelligence operatives the killer was found and likewise killed; in the former, it’s even simpler:  a gigantic tsunami devastates the normally tourist-filled tranquil coast of Thailand (and 13 adjoining or nearby countries) on Dec. 26, 2004, 230,000 are killed with many others injured, our focused-on family is separated by the raging waters, and they brave many dangers and misdirections to finally reunite.  In The Impossible the need to build drama is even greater than in Bigelow’s film because everything about the narrative hinges on just two questions: (1) Will the separated family be rejoined? and (2) Will the mother, Maria (Naomi Watts), survive her desperately-needed operation at the rural, marginally-equipped, overwhelmed hospital in order to be flown to Singapore for better treatment?  The answer in both cases is an expected “Yes” (assumed as the desired result, even if you haven’t consulted some information site to learn how this actually happened to the Alvarez Belon family—transformed from Spaniards to British for this film, seemingly for purposes of better appeal to the English-speaking world where reading subtitles can easily be box-office poison), so, again, don’t start bellyaching about Spoilers, because the real purpose in seeing this film is to watch the overwhelming special effects that create the tsunami and its aftermath devastation and to gain insight on how injured and frightened vacationers completely out of their element (although Mom is a doctor so that helps considerably as she finds whatever remedies and strategies might serve her best as she tries to drag herself through the jungle seeking help) rise to the occasion to overcome their constant fears and take responsibility for themselves and a few of those around them (especially eldest son Lucas [Tom Holland—impressive enough to inspire some talk of an Oscar nomination but unlikely given the other contenders in this year’s Supporting Actor category]) rather than just focusing on their own rescue.

However, while you can’t help but be impressed—and frightened—by the depiction of the destructive flood (unless you live in the Northeast U.S. and have seen more than enough firsthand of what that’s all about with the catastrophe of Hurricane Sandy last Oct.), you might be a bit—or a lot—put off by how the focus of this horrifying natural disaster is so consistently placed on the well-being of this well-to-do European family while so many thousands of others from the battered lands of Southeast Asia are just seen as collateral damage around the environs of the protagonists.  This is made all the more emphatic at the end when they’re greeted by an insurance agent who assures them that all will be taken care of from now on as they are then whisked by private plane over the ruined landscape where countless others still lay dead, dying, or seriously wounded.  Admittedly, this is based on the true story of how this family of 5 survived a horrendous ordeal—and Mom, Lucas, and Dad Henry (Ewan McGregor) do make valiant efforts to help 1 needy person that each encounters—so there’s little opportunity here to explore the larger picture of how thousands of lives were impacted by this immense, deadly storm, but it’s difficult to just see the camera constantly sweeping past the strewn bodies and debris all around in order to keep following the various members of the Burnette pack back to eventual safety.  Within that singular focus—carried out in 2 parallel situations as Maria and Lucas are thrown in one direction while Henry and the younger sons, Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast), are left closer to the demolished resort after the waves and water recede—we first concentrate on Mom and eldest child struggling with her increasingly incapacitating injuries and his growing transition from protected child to protecting caretaker, especially after they’re rescued by villagers who transport her by pickup truck to the frantically-working but under-prepared medical-treatment center, passing by a constant line of their own injured countrymen standing or lying by the side of the road with seemingly no option of moving themselves to the local hospital for care of their own wounds.  I don’t mean to denigrate the astounding difficulties that the real Maria (most of the family given names have been maintained [although Tomas is Anglicized to Thomas] except for husband Quique being changed to Henry; more details on and photos of the actual family are available at faced in surviving her horrendous injuries nor do I discount the unyielding determination (akin to what we see of Maya in Zero Dark Thirty) of this family in refusing to give up hope of salvation even when each small group was convinced that the other was dead, but despite all of these justifications for how emotionally moving this film can be if you universalize this one family’s triumph to metaphorically stand in for triumph reigning over tragedy where the heart must go on even when drowning seems immanent (despite my usual inclination to move sideways into song links with such a cue line as this, I will resist any temptation to connect The Impossible with Titanic [James Cameron, 1997] and Celine Dion’s ubiquitous theme song), etc., I just can’t get fully past the underlying message of “once these heroic First Worlders made noble efforts to save themselves in the midst of disaster their support system is in position to swoop in and bring about the final, needed stages of the rescue—now how about a donation to help bury all of those other poor suckers who weren’t so privileged or lucky?”

Again, I don’t mean to imply that privilege or resources helped the Burnette/Alvarez Belon family when they were painfully climbing trees to escape succeeding waves of waves, calling desperately for each other through torrential tides and pitch-black darkness, losing touch with other again even after each parent was united with some of the children (for awhile the hospital staff misidentifies Maria so she’s moved when Lucas is gone helping others, then he can’t find her anywhere until the confusion is straightened out; for a day or so Henry loses Thomas and Simon because local authorities decide to move all of the seemingly parentless children to another location after he leaves them in a camp under a stranger’s care as he searched for Maria and Lucas), and teetering on the bring of unification disaster until all of them miraculously end up at the same jungle medical compound and accidently stumble upon each other.  All of their survivals were the result of sheer willpower and assumption of responsibility, even down to the level of Thomas beginning to understand how to care for his younger brother, though neither of them was yet 8 years old.  But after their fates were given a positive outcome against incredible odds (again, all true, and possibly less fictionalized than what we’re shown in Zero Dark Thirty), they are quickly bandaged up (I understand that they had no clothes other than what they were wearing when the tsunami hit and no other wardrobe was available, but it does seem a bit overdramatized to me that if they have the option of a private plane to jet them out of the disaster area that someone might have offered Henry a wet rag to wash off the dried blood that covered much of his body), and sent homeward bound (after Maria’s further medical treatment); their ordeal is essentially over (although if you read that link I offered above you find out that Maria spent 14 months in hospitals in Singapore and Spain) while we learn nothing of the fates of those thousands we saw briefly in the jungles and the rural hospital.  In the midst of a story that attempts to give us hope against horror we are constantly reminded of the horror of inequity, through no real fault of anyone involved.  So, just to be clear, I'm not denigrating the perils of the real family, I'm just saying that as a film focused mainly on their travails it's hard to not be, in all good conscience, distracted from the main narrative by all that goes on in equal misery for the multitudes that surround them.

Cinematically, there are many marvelous moments in The Impossible from the opening on a black screen with the sounds of turbulence (another direct parallel with Zero Dark Thirty) that builds to a crescendo (not unlike the climactic ending of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” from 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; OK, this time I can’t resist the sideways trip to a musical interlude but this one is too perfect to pass up:  the album’s recording of the song intercut with footage from the studio recording sessions and other visual interludes, with the lyrics translated to Spanish subtitles at then the shock of a jet airliner blasting onto the screen toward land as the passengers experience some foreshadowing turbulence; the amazing whirlwind of the flood shots as we see mostly the damaging journey of Maria being pushed around through all manner of debris but also with POV shots of what she sees in chaotic agony (at times with no sync sound to further the sense of her loss of immediate consciousness as life is traveling past her in a process both too fast and too slow to comprehend); the intercutting of her hospital operation scene with shots of those flood-ravaged memories, again often presented in silence or with music rather than sync sound of the disaster; and the final shots of her crying, looking out the window of her departing airplane as she surveys the horror of the damage that has reduced the resort and its environment to ruins, as the result of an unanticipated and undefendable natural calamity.  In the moments when Watts is struggling to keep her sanity as she forces her injured body through the jungle looking for higher ground and in this final scene we see the justification of her likely Best Actress Oscar nomination; however, like Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty (who’s clearly the lead female in the film but one whose actions are circumscribed in the first half so that she only roars to life at times toward the end) there are long stretches of The Impossible where Watts is either not on screen or essentially comatose, leaving me to wonder again how the Academy voters can objectively say that she’s a reasonable candidate for Best Actress (which she is) but Helen Hunt in The Sessions (Ben Lewin) is only an option for Best Supporting Actress when she’s on screen for about as much time as Watts’ character is conscious and both of them are essential to the development and closure of their stories (yet, I know full well that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has its own internal politics in terms of nomination and campaign strategies which is no different in concept—just in scale—from the internal politics of the U.S. government and its CIA, so I’ll just hush and hope to see both of these fine performances get a chance to compete for the gold come February).

As noted above, I have too many conceptual problems with The Impossible (just as I did with Django Unchained, and as Academy voters may have by the end of this month after more news cycles involving the [in?]accuracies of Zero Dark Thirty [just as baseball sports writers are now making political decisions with their Hall of Fame votes for or against Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa]) to rate it as highly as many others do, but it’s still emotionally-powerful, technically-superb filmmaking that will likely move many to tears and relief with its outcome.  What you’ll be moved to feel about Zero Dark Thirty is another consideration entirely, depending largely on your attitude toward means vs. ends.  The end result in both cases, as always, is up to you no matter who gets nominated for what or who takes home the gold next month.

If you’d like to know more about Zero Dark Thirty here are some suggested links: (5 ½ min. ABC story on Zero Dark Thirty from the perspective of director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal) (7 ¾ min. CNN story that challenges the accuracy of what’s being presented in Zero Dark Thirty)

If you’d like to know more about The Impossible here are some suggested links: (4:30 min. of interviews with actor Tom Holland, followed by the option of an interview with act0r Evan McGregor [5:40])

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  1. He visto Zero Dark Thirty y en ella no se hace referencia a los atentados de Madrid, el 11-M!! Me parece que debería haber sido uno de los hitos que tenia que tratar la película, casi 200 muertos!!!
    the movie should not have forgotten the 11 M

  2. Hi Stromboli, Thanks very much for reading the review and leaving a comment. My Spanish is terrible, but if I'm correct in understanding that you're saying Zero Dark Thirty does not make reference to the atrocious terrorist attack in Madrid on March 11, 2004 then I offer my apologies for this mistake and agree with you that the film should also acknowledge this brazen assault on innocent people in Spain. That's what I understood was being said in the film's dialogue, but if I was wrong I thank you for correcting me and setting the record straight.

  3. Hi again to Stromboli Lipari and anyone else reading this review and its comments.

    I just saw Zero Dark Thirty again today (Jan. 15, 2013) and agree that I was completely mistaken to have said that the Madrid attack was noted in this film because it is not. What was being referenced was that Al-Qaeda still had terrorist cells in London and Spain in 2008 ready to cause more havoc, one of the reasons to continue the hunt for bin Laden so as try to prevent more deaths of innocent people.

    At times it's very hard for me to take adequate notes when I'm both watching the film and writing at the same time, especially in a crowded theatre where I'm trying to keep from disturbing other patrons with my little pen light. Looking back on my old notes I see they're very cramped and scribbled, indicating how difficult it was to be a reporter as well as a viewer a couple of weeks ago. From my brief jot I made the wrong assumption when I was writing the review a few days later that there had been acknowledgement of the Madrid bombing in 2004, but that was not the case.

    My apologies again for raising bad memories in an incorrect context. I'll do my best to keep that from happening again. Thanks again to anyone for helping improve the accuracy of these reviews.