We saw two movies this week, and this is a quick post to try and catch up. I’m also reading two books right now, and I’m definitely falling behind everywhere!
The first movie we saw was Promised Land, starring Matt Damon, Frances McDormand and John Krasinski. Krasinski and Damon share the screen writing credit in this new movie directed by Gus Van Sant. This is the story of two consultants (Damon and McDormand) for a company which engages in hydrofracking for natural gas. They are deployed to a rural Pennsylvania town with the assignment to obtain leases from the residents extract gas from their lands. The company believes there is a large reserve of natural gas in the area, and wants to be the first to tap into it. John Krasinski shows up on the scene as an environmentalist determined to stop them.
This movie is fairly predictable. The performances are low-key, and most of the characters seem true to life. My only quibble is that is seemed preachy; it’s obvious where the filmmaker’s bias lies. We don’t need to be hit over the head more than once about the evils of fracking.
The second movie we saw was the stunner Zero Dark Thirty. This gritty film is about the post-9/11 hunt for Osama bin Laden. The focus is on Jessica Chastain’s character Maya, a young CIA agent who becomes obsessed with following one particular lead in the search. Everyone knows the end of this story; a team of Navy SEALS is deployed to a small city in Pakistan one night in May 2011. They kill bin Laden, and take his body out with them, along with the contents of several computers and file cabinets. But the movie focuses on how they got to that point.
There are scenes of detainee torture, as well as of attacks on Americans. We see the bureaucrats at the CIA who seem unable to make a decision to recommend to the President that they proceed with the operation to kill bin Laden. They spend months trying to be certain that bin Laden is actually at the location that Maya has pinpointed.
In addition to Chastain, I thought that the performance of Jason Clarke as Dan, a veteran CIA agent, was fantastic. The characters of Maya and Dan have depth and believability. Unlike James Gandolfini. As the Director of the CIA, he stretches credibility. I think he is too identified with characters like Tony Soprano to play that type of role. But that was the only weak point in this movie, and it’s a minor one. I’m surprised that Director Kathryn Bigelow was not nominated for an Oscar; there were a lot of very good movies this year, but she should have been singled out for at least the honor of the nomination.