Hypable Movie Review: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

6:40 pm EST, January 11, 2013

At this point it’s impossible to write about Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s portrayal of the hunt for Osama bin Laden without addressing all the controversial baggage that has come along with its release. Yet it’s more important to address it as a piece of filmmaking, to which it is a masterful, towering achievement.

Zero Dark Thirty packs a massive punch as it distills the 10 year hunt for bin Laden into a 157 minute procedural that ends spectacularly. Cold and uncompromising throughout, the film will likely turn some off as from the start it is perhaps an overly intense experience. Much has been made of the film’s opening moments, which sees CIA interrogator Dan (Jason Clarke) using “enhanced interrogation techniques,” (read: water-boarding and sleep deprivation) on a detainee. The film’s central character, Maya (Jessica Chastain), watches in the background during what boils down to an extended torture sequence.

Zero Dark Thirty

It’s brutal to watch and immediately sets the stakes as high as possible, regardless of the fact we know the outcome of the film going into it. To address the controversies surrounding the inclusion and use of torture in the film, I’ll simply say by having it in the film, Bigelow and Boal are definitely not endorsing torture or even saying it works. Instead, it’s much more of a journalistic approach, and definitely doesn’t play fast and loose with it, rather letting history (or their interpretation of it) speak for itself.

Jessica Chastain is stunning as Maya, a character that constantly surprises. She is a terrifically written character which Chastain brings a quiet power to that perfectly matches the tone of the film. The film shifts between different chapters of the decade-long search, as the likes of Kyle Chandler, James Gandolfini, Mark Strong, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Duplass and Jennifer Ehle appear in supporting roles as various CIA operatives and higher-ups.

These performances are all solid, as are Chris Pratt, Joel Edgerton and others as members of SEAL Team Six, but it’s Chastain and Clarke who stand out of the crowded ensamble piece. Maya’s tenacity and determination to find bin Laden fuels much of the energy of the film, which unfolds in detailed, procedural fashion. Her character arc is interesting to behold, as it occurs over the course of a decade. Clarke’s is also quite interesting, as early on we see him as the instigator of torture and ends up as a man behind a desk in Washington.

Zero Dark Thirty

Just as Boal wrote an impeccably crafted, impossibly detailed account of the search for bin Laden, Bigelow proves once again to have a command over her material, creating visceral, adrenaline-pounding sequences to balance out with the years of searching. While Maya is at the center, Bigelow impressively captures just how much of an effort the hunt was, while creating a chilling portrayal of al-Qaeda.

The attention and commitment to detail is impressive to say the least. Bigelow does an impressive job of keeping the audience with the film for the first two hours-plus of its running time, before SEAL Team Six arrives on the scene and delivers an impressive, breathtaking final act that will keep you on the edge of your seat, again, despite the fact that you know the outcome.

As Zero Dark Thirty comes to a close, Bigelow adds the right touches to make the film come together as well, if not better, than it started. There isn’t as much of an emotional impact here as with many other films of the year, however the result is just as impressive as any and all of them. It’s a remarkable achievement on multiple fronts, but perhaps more impressive of all is what is ultimately delivered: a dramatic retelling of recent moments in history of the highest order.

Grade: A

Rated: R (for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language)

Zero Dark Thirty expands nationwide on January 11, 2013.

‘The Space Between Us’ set report: What if a human was born on Mars?

Hypable visited the set and spoke to the film's stars.

12:00 pm EST, January 17, 2017

Could a human be born on a distant planet and later survive on earth?

It’s not only a premise that the upcoming science fiction tale The Space Between Us asks, but a real question and concern that people at NASA have considered as well.

Inspired by his son’s obsession with Mars, and the kernel of an idea from another writer he works with, film producer Richard Lewis picked up the phone and posed the question to members of NASA.

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Could a human be born on a distant planet and later survive on earth?

It’s not only a premise that the upcoming science fiction tale The Space Between Us asks, but a real question and concern that people at NASA have considered as well.

Inspired by his son’s obsession with Mars, and the kernel of an idea from another writer he works with, film producer Richard Lewis picked up the phone and posed the question to members of NASA.

He never would’ve guessed what was going to happen when he spoke to them.

“I called a group of NASA scientists and said, ‘So what would happen if an astronaut turned out to be pregnant on a flight to Mars?’ and there was just silence on the other end of the call. And they said, ‘Are you listening to our phone calls?’ I said, ‘No, I’ve never spoken to you in my life.’ And they said, ‘It’s going to happen, and we don’t know what to do.'”

That was when he teamed up with screenwriter Allan Loeb and started fleshing out an answer. “I thought, wow, that’s the beginning of an interesting story.” Lewis even worked with his father, a heart specialist, to examine how that muscle would develop differently on Mars, and aspects of this research became a big part of the story.

The Space Between Us is an interplanetary adventure following a human boy named Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) born on the distant red planet. His mother, an astronaut, only realized she was pregnant with Gardner after leaving on her mission to colonize Mars.

Once Gardner reaches his teenage years he becomes interested in leaving East Texas (yep, on Mars) and returning to the home of his species. Not only is he curious about Earth, but Gardner has also fallen for a girl named Tulsa who’s literally tens of millions of miles away in the state of Colorado. The two met online and can relate over their outsider perspectives.

There’s just one problem: Tulsa doesn’t realize that Gardner is literally living on Mars.

Hypable visited the Albuquerque, New Mexico set of The Space Between Us starring Butterfield, Robertson, and Gary Oldman in late October 2015. On the day we visited, Asa, Britt, and crew were at the tail end of their 37-day shooting schedule which took them through New Mexico, Las Vegas, and Malibu.

It was Day 31, and indoor and outdoor shoots were taking place at Highland High School located in the southeast quadrant of Albuquerque. Since it was a weekday, real classes were in session as Asa and Britt shot outdoor scenes.

The real students who walked by the production had mixed reactions. Some watched and Snapchatted the excitement, while others passed by as if a Hollywood production wasn’t filming right before their eyes. Later in the day, after the real students went home, production moved inside the school to shoot a scene where Gardner and Tulsa meet in person for the first time. It’s one of the more touching moments in the movie.

Earlier, Asa walked into our press tent carrying a drone in tow. He had recently purchased it to try and capture aerial footage for fun, and was learning how to operate it in between filming his scenes.

Both the aerial device and Gardner struggle to deal with Earth’s gravity.

When asked how he handles playing a character who has never been on Earth before, Asa describes it as a very unique experience. “It’s hard to put yourself in that kind of position because we [as humans] are so experienced in the world, and to completely strip all that back and be absolutely in awe at everything you see — a tree, a doorman — everything’s interesting,” he says.

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Tulsa (Britt Robertson) experiences zero gravity with Gardner (Asa Butterfield).

Living on Mars your whole life doesn’t mean you’re missing hormones, so girls are also of interest in Gardner. On the relationship between his character and Tulsa, Asa tells us, “They both have this longing desire for being somewhere. Belonging somewhere. Tulsa’s been jumping around through various foster homes, she’s never really settled anywhere. Gardner spends his life on Mars. No one knows he exists. They’re kind of united by this experience.”

“He’s an alien, and she’s an alien, and this is the journey of the story,” Lewis tells us. “Watching these two characters connect, and the disconnects, the misunderstandings, and then ultimately they have a connection.”

Those good and bad connections were present in the scene we observed, which finds Gardner surprising Tulsa in her school hallway. As someone who is tough and reserved, Tulsa is understandably frustrated by Gardner’s sudden appearance. The two still haven’t communicated well with one another — Adorably, Tulsa is unaware that when he says he’s from “East Texas” he means the establishment on Mars.

With Gardner now on earth, the two begin to form a close bond as the Mars-born boy tries to discover his roots.

Co-starring in the movie is Gary Oldman, whose character originally organized the trip to Mars. He wasn’t on set the day we visited, but the actor has a very important role in the movie.

The Space Between Us opens in theaters February 3, 2017.

‘Rogue One’s’ best scene doesn’t involve the heroes

It's a nameless character who saves the day.

8:15 am EST, January 17, 2017

Among the many exceptional scenes in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, one of the most poignant ones doesn’t even involve any of the main heroes.

Rogue One  is full of memorable moments, some breathtaking, some endearing in the way we’ve come to expect from Star Wars, and all full of an epic sense of the lengths people will go to in the name of hope. It also stands out because of its representation, with a female main character and a diverse cast of supporting characters. But it’s the scene almost at the very end that makes its story truly unique.

It takes place after Jyn Erso and her band of rebels have already completed their mission, and the Death Star plans that they have given their lives to procure are being physically carried through the Profundity by a single individual, while the ship is under attack. Close at his heels is Darth Vader, finally revealed in all his lightsaber-wielding, terrifying glory, killing rebel soldiers left and right. The door jams in front of the man holding the plans, with only a slight gap left open – just enough for him to fit an arm through and frantically get the device to one of the fleeing rebels on the other side, knowing fully that this is the last action he’ll ever carry out.

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Among the many exceptional scenes in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, one of the most poignant ones doesn’t even involve any of the main heroes.

Rogue One  is full of memorable moments, some breathtaking, some endearing in the way we’ve come to expect from Star Wars, and all full of an epic sense of the lengths people will go to in the name of hope. It also stands out because of its representation, with a female main character and a diverse cast of supporting characters. But it’s the scene almost at the very end that makes its story truly unique.

It takes place after Jyn Erso and her band of rebels have already completed their mission, and the Death Star plans that they have given their lives to procure are being physically carried through the Profundity by a single individual, while the ship is under attack. Close at his heels is Darth Vader, finally revealed in all his lightsaber-wielding, terrifying glory, killing rebel soldiers left and right. The door jams in front of the man holding the plans, with only a slight gap left open – just enough for him to fit an arm through and frantically get the device to one of the fleeing rebels on the other side, knowing fully that this is the last action he’ll ever carry out.

This character has no name, and we know nothing about him beyond this scene. But faced by the most fearsome threat and terrible odds, he abandons fighting and uses his dying moments to get the plans across the doomed ship, and to Princess Leia.

It’s not common to see a scene like this one – scenes that convey the power of the collective action of many people across different areas – done so skillfully, especially in movies that are so character-driven.

In Star Wars, we’ve always focused on Luke and Leia and Han, and more recently on Rey, Finn and Poe. Although we knew that the Rebellion was the fruit of the efforts of many, we never had such a clear look into just how many lives were involved.

Rogue One the Rebellion

This final scene brings it all together, tying together the various storylines we know in an epic finale, and finally connecting them to Episode IV in a perfect mix of excitement and nostalgia. Without this character, driven by desperate hope rather than fear of his imminent death, Rogue One’s mission would not have ended successfully, Leia would have never received the plans… and none of the story we already know would have taken place.

For once, it was a character whose face we didn’t even see properly, dressed just like everyone else, fulfilling his own small role in a much bigger mission, who saved the day.

This ending, maybe even more meaningfully than the stories of the heroes we know and love, shows us the very essence of the Rebellion: a movement of dedication and sacrifice, full of people like the ones that died on Scarif, that put themselves between the plans and Vader, that drove the mission to success in their dying moments – and that stopped the race to save their own lives in favor of securing the mission’s objective.

We, as the audience, can find ourselves in the nameless rebel soldier and his sacrifice – a realistic and emotional portrayal of what makes any movement for change possible: the sacrifices of a vast number of people whose names and faces we may never know, whose stories may never be recorded, but whose lives were spent in search of a better future for the generations that follow.

What scene in ‘Rogue One’ impacted you the most?

Sherlock season 4, episode 3 is the last new material fans will see for a very long time. Was it a satisfying farewell to the series?

The Sherlock season 4 finale is a healthy mix of emotional highs and lows. But was it, as co-creators Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss describe, “television history?” No. It was not. It was not even the best episode of the Sherlock series.

However, it is what we have to left to unpack as we leave Holmes at Watson in 221B by the fire. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

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Sherlock season 4, episode 3 is the last new material fans will see for a very long time. Was it a satisfying farewell to the series?

The Sherlock season 4 finale is a healthy mix of emotional highs and lows. But was it, as co-creators Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss describe, “television history?” No. It was not. It was not even the best episode of the Sherlock series.

However, it is what we have to left to unpack as we leave Holmes at Watson in 221B by the fire. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

The final problem

The greatest flaw of Sherlock is when it gets stuck in its own heightened story telling. “The Final Problem” is the perfect example of retelling the past and not giving the audience any new information. It’s not hard to deduce. The episode does not suffer for this. Because it is not about the game at all.

Eurus’ game is well-crafted, brutal, and unforgiving. She is a master. The episode goes above and beyond to prove that over and over. Eurus wants to understand the complexity of human empathy. The only way she can do that is to cut the people open and see what makes their muscles move.

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The maze she crafts tests the resolve of Sherlock, Mycroft, and John. One great example of this is the use of Molly Hooper. It should be noted that Molly Hooper deserves so much better.

Using her love for Sherlock as a weapon, Molly Hooper’s life shatters with three words. Unfortunately, all of this is in service to unravel Sherlock with no resolution on her end.

As he smashes the coffin with his bare hands, John and Mycroft are there to reel him back in. They lend a hand to rebuild the walls that are falling down around him. That is until they literally fall at the doorstep of his childhood home.

The final problem is how do you deliver human connection to someone who does not know how to receive it? That desire to feel that her brothers appreciate her for more than her brain. If Eurus’ favorite person, Sherlock, could just take a moment to play her game, everything can end.

The test, it turns out, is for Sherlock to lean heavily on his capacity for emotional connection throwing logic out of the equation. He makes room for John, Mary, Molly, even Greg in his life. Can he find a way to make room for Eurus in spite of everything he just found out?

“You were always the grown up,” says Mrs. Holmes near the end of the episode. Sherlock takes the family into the next chapter of their life. One where music bridges the gap between them and the entire Holmes family can sit together without words getting in the way.

‘I’m a pirate’

The biggest twist, if you didn’t already work it out for yourself, comes when John discovers the bones of “Redbeard” in the well. They are not dog bones, but the bones of Sherlock’s best childhood friend, Victor.

But the best appearance is by far the inclusion of Mycroft’s Christmas gift — Jim Moriarty.

sherlock season 4 moriarty

Moriarty’s obsession with Holmes begins well before Eurus calls him in for a meeting. But did he succumb to being one of her agents? Probably. But Jim likely steered his own course to Sherlock. But the game… well, the game now reeks of Eurus.

Mycroft Holmes

The Holmes brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, have the most fascinating relationship on Sherlock. “The Final Problem” highlights the complexity of their past and the trajectory of their future.

The most moving scene in the entire episode arrives when Mycroft, John and Sherlock are contemplating the reality of what may be their final moments alive. Hearing that Sherlock appreciated a talent of his, one that is not based on their familial intellect, moves him to a smile. Well before Mycroft sacrifices himself for Sherlock’s partnership with John, he gets the validation that their relationship is full of mutual appreciation.

mycroft sherlock

The minds of the Holmes siblings may be capable of great feats, but no fortress is entirely secure.

Mycroft’s home at the start of the episode is infiltrated by the combination of Holmes and Watson. Later on, his mind’s security system fails. He is a strong, put together person. After years of arranging Sherlock’s safety behind the scenes, it’s time for Sherlock to step up and do the same.

Is there room for more?

Perhaps we will all meet again at Anemoi. In the credits letters it is typical for the editors to highlight certain letters. The final sequence produces just a single word — Anemoi, the meeting place of the four winds.

While the finale ties up loose ends, recreates the scars that affect the duo the most, it does feel more like a beginning than an ending.

Sherlock may or may not return.

Tags: bbc sherlock