2017 Movie #120: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

2017 Movie #120: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Between The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow crafted two of the most important statements on post-9/11 America, despite neither film taking place in America itself. While The Hurt Locker presents the audience with a more palatable message, in a more accessible package, for my money, it’s Zero Dark Thirty that is the more well-made, well-crafted film, a film that raises more questions than it answers, that spotlights much of American foreign policy since 9/11 through the lens of the chase for Osama bin Laden.

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2017 Movie #119: The Hurt Locker (2008)

2017 Movie #119: The Hurt Locker (2008)

Kathryn Bigelow’s bold cinematic return after seven years out of the director’s chair, and the first in a series of collaborations with screenwriter Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker is one of the best depictions of life in the Iraq war, as told through the eyes of an explosive ordnance disposal team.

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2017 Movie #116: K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

2017 Movie #116: K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

There’s an inherent cinematic tension to a confined space like a train (SnowpiercerMurder on the Orient Express), or, in the case of Kathryn Bigelow’s K-19: The Widowmaker, a submarine. K-19 tells the story of a nuclear submarine that undergoes a catastrophic failure to its nuclear reactor, and Kathryn Bigelow takes full advantage of the cinematic tension to create a claustrophobic film that takes a darkly depressing turn into the fatalistic. The images of young sailors, emerging from the irradiated containment compartment of the submarine, already suffering from severe radiation poisoning, are harrowing, to say the least.

Though K-19 is ultimately a good film for what it’s trying to be, it’s easy to see why this was such a boondoggle. This is not an action film – despite being marketed as an action film, despite starring one of the biggest action stars in the world in Harrison Ford (Liam Neeson was not yet an action star in 2002), this is a dark drama at best, claustrophobic, cynical, and depressing.

Some of the accent stuff in this movie is iffy at best. Asking Harrison Ford to do a Russian accent – maybe not the best move?

In many ways, this feels very much like the precursor to Bigelow’s later career, to films like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty – the kind of dark adult drama that Bigelow is now known for, but at the time was not her modus operandi.

2017 Movie #113: The Weight of Water (2000)

2017 Movie #113: The Weight of Water (2000)

A movie being slow isn’t always a problem, but The Weight of Water isn’t just slow – it’s ponderous and boring in the worst ways, filled with pretention and unearned weight. There’s none of the fun or joy of a film like Point Break here, but it doesn’t come close to earning the kind of a weight of later Bigelow films like Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker. No, this is a film full of stylistic pomp with little underneath the surface, confusingly told.

It’s astonishing to think a film this slow and ponderous was given a $16 million budget, and it’s not surprising that this film was a colossal flop.

2017 Movie #109: Strange Days (1995)

2017 Movie #109: Strange Days (1995)

Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days is a bizarre oddity of a film; it’s almost impossible to think that this film got made. This is an unwieldy film full of big ideas, ideas about race, about sex, visions of the future that prove prescient in some ways and bizarrely misguided in others. If Strange Days represents something of a creative misfire on Bigelow’s part, a film that is almost unpalatable to watch because of how far out of left field it is, it also represents a complete, bold creative swing.

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2017 Movie #101: Blue Steel (1990)

2017 Movie #101: Blue Steel (1990)

Kathryn Bigelow’s Blue Steel is, if nothing else, a fascinating film… The exploration of a killer’s psyche, years before this kind of psychological examination became the norm, and the traumatic interplay between hunter and hunted, is innovative to be sure.

This is a well-made film, one that Bigelow has a strong technical grasp for, and Jamie Lee Curtis is an effective dramatic lead. That said, something about this film still left me feeling cold; I feel like that’s at least partially intentionally, but I still just couldn’t get into this film the way I might have hoped.

2017 Movie #99: Near Dark (1987)

2017 Movie #99: Near Dark (1987)

Near Dark is shockingly mediocre, considering it may be the world’s first (?) vampire western film, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and starring the cast of AliensNear Dark stars a young Adrian Pasdar as Caleb, an Oklahoma boy who gets seduced by, and turned into, a vampire. Forced to go on the run, he joins a coven of vampires, lead by Jesse (Lance Henriksen – it’s a … weird … performance), and the psychotic Severen (Bill Paxton, at his most gleefully deranged – the best part of the movie by far).

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