Davis: Zero Dark Thirty emerging as an early Academy Award frontrunner

Zero Dark Thirty and Gangster Squad are the major new movie openings this weekend.

Three years ago, director Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win a Best Director Academy Award with The Hurt Locker (which also won five other Oscars including Best Picture).

This year, she could win her second with Zero Dark Thirty.

Bigelow has re-teamed with The Hurt Locker scribe Mark Boal who, instead of writing

about his experiences with a bomb disposal

team in Iraq, has gathered as much information as he could about the efforts to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and chronicled them in a screenplay.

Zero Dark Thirty stars Jessica Chastain (The Help) as a young CIA officer who has spent her brief career focusing solely on intelligence related to the al-Qaeda leader.

The movie shows her efforts, along with an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe to find an eliminate bin Laden.

Although critically acclaimed, Zero Dark Thirty has courted controversy, mostly during the recent U.S .election.

It was originally scheduled for an October release but opponents of Barack Obama felt it would help his re-election bid.

Republicans also charged the Obama administration of providing the filmmakers with classified information which became an election issue.

There is other criticism over the torture portrayed in the movie and whether or not it takes a pro-torture stance.

Whatever political criticisms there are about the movie, critics overwhelmingly praise Zero Dark Thirty, with 94 per cent of critics giving it an average of 8.8 out of 10, according to the movie rating site Rottentomatoes.com.

It is also nominated for four Golden Globe awards, including Best Dramatic Motion Picture and Best Director.

And if you are wondering where the title comes from, Bigelow says it is not only a military term for 30 minutes after midnight but it also refers to the darkness and secrecy that cloaked the entire decade-long mission.


While Zero Dark Thirty seems to be a natural follow-up to The Hurt Locker for Kathryn Bigelow, Gangster Squad is a much less obvious one for Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer.

While Zombieland was a hugely entertaining zombie comedy, I would have never guessed that Fleischer could pull off a glossy period piece about the LAPD’s fight to keep the Mafia out of Los Angeles in the 1950s.

Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling are part of a special police unit tasked to protect the law by breaking it in order to take on Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and his gang.

The cast includes Nick Nolte, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick and Emma Stone (whose breakout role was in Zombieland).

Originally set for release last September, Gangster Squad’s release was moved to this weekend after the shootings at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.

The filmmakers decided that a crucial scene in which gangsters fire machine guns at moviegoers through a projection screen should be reshot in a different setting.

While I do not think Gangster Squad will be a classic like The Untouchables, it will be worth a watch.

Rick Davis manages the Landmark 8 cinema in West Kelowna.