Although not SF or fantasy, this fact-based tale about the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden was not only more thrilling than most genre films but commendable for not incorporating a single instance of characters outrunning fireballs, surviving falls from impossible heights or mowing down large numbers of disposable villains. In other words, it felt real.
I saw the movie yesterday, had dreams about it last night, and was still dwelling on it this morning when I awoke. The film’s power is undeniable and kudos to everyone involved in making it, particularly director Kathryn Bigelow, actress Jessica Chastain and screenwriter Mark Boal.
Elevating the film beyond the sheer excitement of a perilous hunt was its sharp dialogue and the intelligence of its characters, most of whom are CIA or military. Although you can certainly challenge the ethics of using torture to prevent future attacks or track down terrorists, for the most part the film never stooped to rendering government employees as evil, nasty bureaucrats or incompetent buffoons, portrayals all too common in movies, books and comics today.
Coincidentally, this morning I read a fascinating Locus Magazine article by scientist/SF author David Brin, who makes the point that Suspicion of Authority – which he refers to as SOA – is so deeply ingrained in today’s films, novels and comics that it’s rare to come across fiction where governments and/or corporations aren’t considered the enemy. Brin’s article, which can be found here, offshoots a number of good ideas, all orbiting the notion that contemporary fiction mercilessly depicts civilization “as irredeemably stupid or morally bankrupt.” He goes on to explore the deleterious effects of such a viewpoint and how and why it encumbers fiction. He also suggests that fiction didn’t always perceive the world through such a lens, and that films of the 1930s through the 1950s tended to promote a spirit of “we’re in this together.”
It’s an excellent and thoughtful article. Check it out. And if you need a respite from having seen one too many brain-dead action movies, give yourself a cineplex reprieve with "Zero Dark Thirty.”