January 10, 2013 1:10pm EST
Chronicling nearly a decade's worth of investigations and an endless amount of headaches on the part of CIA operatives Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty burns slowly through America's turbulent search for Osama bin Laden. Where Hurt Locker brewed tension from red-or-blue-wire bomb scenarios and military action the Oscar winner's follow-up finds it in a maelstrom of intel the temperamental conditions of the Middle East and the bureaucracy of back home.
Jessica Chastain's Maya goes from bright newcomer to the obsessed soldier of justice giving Javert a run for his money in pursuit of a criminal in one's crosshairs. When Seal Team Six finally receives their infamous assignment Bigelow and writer Mark Boal continue to ask questions — imperative in a film that speaks to one of U.S.'s murkiest zeitgeists.
Maya is first introduced dressed up in a clean well-fitting suit preparing to witness her very first interrogation. The scene escalates quickly with her coworker Dan (Jason Clarke) employing the waterboarding technique against the close-lipped detainee Ammar (Reda Kateb A Prophet).
Zero Dark Thirty has come under fire for its portrayal of torture but nothing in Bigelow's film comes close to condoning the process. Instead the film focuses in on the ramifications. Months of pressure eventually breaks Ammar — and his interrogator. A distraught Dan heads back to Washington leaving Maya even more committed to chasing leads and finding bin Laden on her own.
The careful orchestration of details — names locations dates and any other shred of evidence that could lead Maya and her team to bin Laden — turns Zero Dark Thirty into a thriller by way of a New Yorker essay. Boal finds emotion in cut and dry information; Chastain's determination ferocity and at times exhaustion speak volumes — even when the dialogue is laying down facts.
Bigelow surrounds her with an inspired cast: Kyle Chandler as the dapper politico chief Jennifer Ehle as a intelligence officer who draws out Maya's last few drops of friendship and Mark Strong as a ball-buster who loses his stance above the team as Maya pours herself entirely into the operation and asserts dominance.
Bigelow has an eye for action and the Seal Team Six infiltration that caps the film is expertly crafted thanks to tactical movements lit dimly and paced with Alexandre Desplat's rumbling score. But Bigelow also respects the personalities of soldiers.
They speak like people act like people and in moments of bloodshed (decisions made in morally grey zones) they respond and react like people.
Zero Dark Thirty is awe-inspiring for its ability to chronicle a long-gestating investigation but it's one of 2012's best because it digs deeper and examines both sides of the coin. No decision is made without consequences even the ones that feel so right in the moment.
The death of Osama bin Laden was a momentous occasion in the United States. As Chastain reveals with unflinching elegance pulling it off cost more than anyone could ever know.
March 02, 2012 9:15am EST
The Hurt Locker filmmaker has been forced to shoot the new project, about the hunt for the Al Qaeda leader, in India after being denied permission to film in neighbouring Pakistan, where the terrorist mastermind was shot and killed by U.S. troops last year (11).
Crewmembers were subsequently forced to use Chandigarh to mirror the Pakistani city of Lahore, but the transformation has infuriated members of right-wing religious organisation Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and they made their feelings known by taking to the streets around the set on Friday.
Some protesters were even seen arguing with the cast and crew as police moved in to deal with the trouble, according to Reuters.
But the campaigners are remaining defiant and are determined to shut down the production for good.
VHP leader Vijay Bhardwaj says, "They have made Chandigarh like Pakistan, as if it is Pakistan. We strongly oppose this and we will not let them put Pakistani flags here and we will not let them shoot for the film."
Hindus in India have long clashed with Muslims in Pakistan since both gained independence from Britain in 1947.
The movie, titled Zero Dark Thirty, stars Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Joel Edgerton and his director brother Nash, and is due to be released later this year (12).
February 27, 2012 4:00am EST
Nash Edgerton, a one-time Star Wars stuntman-turned-filmmaker, will make his Hollywood acting debut as a Navy SEAL, according to Entertainment Weekly.
The untitled thriller, which also features Jessica Chastain and Mark Strong, will start shooting in India next month (Mar12).
September 09, 2011 6:22am EST
Gavin O’Connor’s (Miracle Pride and Glory) stirring new drama Warrior is an underdog tale set in the nascent sport of Mixed Martial Arts fighting. In its relatively short life MMA has yet to inspire much quality cinema of note. It now has its Rocky.
Warrior’s twist on the traditional underdog formula is to provide us with dual protagonists: the fightin’ Conlon brothers Brendan (Joel Edgerton) and Tommy (Tom Hardy). Neither have spoken to each other since the dissolution of the parents’ marriage fourteen years earlier. Both of late have fallen on hard times. Tommy is an Iraq war veteran who has turned to pills and booze since returning from abroad; Brendan is a high school science teacher and devoted family man victimized by the financial crisis. Circumstances compel them both to seek salvation in the fight game.
Conveniently enough the opportunity of a lifetime arrives in the form of Sparta a brand-new winner-take-all MMA tournament that awards its champion a cool $5 million – more than enough for Brendan to save his house from foreclosure or for Tommy to make good on his pledge to provide for the family of a friend killed in Iraq. By this point we know for certain that fate has determined Brendan and Tommy will meet in the final and we know for certain how utterly ridiculous this scenario is. And yet we accept it because by this point Warrior already has us in its corner.
The origins of the brothers’ enmity are ultimately traced to their father Paddy (Nick Nolte) a monstrous alcoholic whose abusiveness led their mother and Tommy to flee fourteen years prior. Brendan stayed behind and Tommy never forgave him for it. When we see Paddy he’s broken-down husk of a man God-fearing and 1000 days sober his face creased with shame and regret. Neither son can stand the sight of their old man but Tommy in need of someone to train him for the tournament reluctantly enlists his father’s help. Paddy eyeing a last chance at redemption enthusiastically complies.
Cue the training montage. A fighter rising from obscurity to the upper echelons in his sport within a matter of weeks is hard to swallow; when two fighters do it it’s a borderline insult to the sport. MMA aficionados might blanch at watching Tommy and Brendan gain one unlikely win after another; more likely they’ll be too absorbed by the action to care. It helps that Hardy and Edgerton both look the part and are both skilled enough at their craft to lend the film’s many brutal fight scenes a distinct realism. It helps even more that the story and the actors' stellar performances have us firmly aligned with their goals.
O’Conner a veteran of the genre deploys the underdog tropes at his disposal freely but assiduously crafting a tale that is unabashedly far-fetched but grounded in characters who are intensely appealing and who feel authentic. The storytelling is clumsy at times – that Nolte’s character listens to a book-on-tape of Moby Dick throughout the film feels particularly heavy-handed – but Warrior wisely steers clear of bombastic speeches or cloying sentiment.
Warrior’s climactic final fight in which the estranged brothers at last meet in the ring is both gut- and heart-wrenching. When the film’s suitably happy ending does eventually arrive the film gives way ever-so-briefly to hokeyness. But after what these kids have gone through you can forgive them for getting a little emotional.
September 06, 2011 8:41am EST
This week sees the debut of Warrior, a sports drama starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as two brothers who share the same dream of glory in the arena of mixed martial arts—a dream that unfortunately has them destined to face one another in combat.
Four years ago, the selection of this duo of actors for this film would have raised serious doubts. But starting with his breakout performance in 2008’s Bronson, and his subsequent collaborations with current Batman franchise captain Christopher Nolan (Inception and the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises), Tom Hardy has proven himself to be one tough son-a-gun. But what do we know about his opponent? Who is Joel Edgerton?
The first place you may have seen Joel—and would now be able to easily recall his face—was in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. In Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones, he played the younger version of the man who would grow up to be Luke’s uncle Owen. He would reprise this role briefly in Episode III.
Between Episodes II & III, Edgerton was given the chance to appear in a couple of historical epics. In 2003’s Ned Kelly, he portrayed an ally of the famous outlaw whose relationship with Ned would become strained. Though content to let Ned do the fighting, Edgerton establishes himself as a charming, talented actor able to hold his own against the likes of Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom. He also showed a knack for playing the banjo…though I don’t know how that will help him against Tom Hardy.
He followed this up with Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur in 2004. In the film, Edgerton plays Gawain, one of Arthur’s knights, and showed us all that he was actually quite comfortable cleaving suckers’ heads in twain with an enormous sword. He followed it with another bloody turn: the utterly chaotic Smokin’ Aces. Like most of the cast in the film, he gets a bit lost in the sadistic shuffle.
But the film that really introduced me to Edgerton in a way impossible to forget was Acolytes, a film that played at this year’s genre-centric Fantastic Fest. The film is about a group of kids who, for most of their lives, have been brutally bullied by a complete lunatic. When it comes to their attention that one of their neighbors may be a serial killer (Edgerton), they blackmail him into getting rid of the bully once and for all. While the actor who plays the bully is outwardly violent, Edgerton juxtaposes the character with a quiet, subtle malevolence. He’s just as ferocious, but in a far more understated way that actually makes one of the kids consider pursuing his bloody profession.
Joel followed up Acolytes with an appearance in his brother, and former stuntman, Nash Edgerton’s crime drama The Square. He also appeared in the film Animal Kingdom, which garnered a great deal of attention and award nominations. Most recently, Edgerton leant his voice to Zack Snyder’s Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole; playing the villainous Metalbeak. Later this year, he’ll follow up Warrior with the prequel to John Carpenter’s phenomenal The Thing…also called The Thing.
Having seen Edgerton’s violent tendencies in Acolytes and his general badassery in King Arthur, I have no doubt he has the physical prowess to go toe-to-toe with Tom Hardy. But more than that, his layered, deeply affecting performance in Acolytes coupled with the unique diversity of his chosen projects instills confidence that he has the acting chops needed to share the screen with Tom; a man whose proven himself to be one of the best up-and-coming actors today.