Monday Morning Quarterback Part I

By BOP Staff

January 15, 2013

That's a unique version of the Dirty Bird.

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Kim Hollis: Zero Dark Thirty earned $24.4 million in its first weekend in wide release, thereby bringing its total to $29.9 million. What are your thoughts on this result, as well as its Oscar candidacy?

Jason Barney: As has been mentioned in a couple of different areas, the budget range for this one seems to be between $20-$45 million. Discussions about a film’s relevance at the box office often have to start with how well it does against the production budget and Zero Dark Thirty appears as though it is going to do just fine. During the limited release run it already grabbed over $5 million, and with the first three days of release behind it, there is no question this is going to be a money maker. Aside from the discussion of the Oscar nominations, the film has good enough buzz for a number of reasons.

The content has a special place in the minds of anyone over the age of a teenager, and curiosity of how they tell this particular story will probably bode well for it. Zero Dark Thirty isn’t necessarily a 9/11 film, and I hesitate to measure this against other pictures which explore America’s recent terrorist entanglements. People still say they would prefer never to see World Trade Center or United 93. Green Zone, which fictionally explored the bungled search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was not embraced by movie goers at all.


Zero Dark Thirty should be different. Perhaps not as much as 9/11, but people generally remember where they were or what they were doing when they heard the news that Bin Laden had been killed. That reality and a story that appears to be pretty well done, should draw a good number of serious minded people to the movies in the coming weeks to see this film.

Another aspect which likely works for this project is the controversy regarding the information and CIA frustration with it. It keeps it in the headlines, which in the advertising world is another positive hit for it. I am not saying it is going to break records from here on out, but I predict there will be substantial interest in this film in the coming weeks.

Edwin Davies: I think this is a very strong result but that this is pretty much the high point for Zero Dark Thirty. Don't get me wrong, I think the film is great and deserves any success it achieves, financial or otherwise, but it's just not the sort of film that will work for a mainstream audience the same way that Argo or Lincoln have. It's a pretty cold, removed film in keeping with its journalistic aspirations, and despite some very tense set-pieces - not least of all the assault on the compound at the end - it's mainly concerned with the slow process of accruing information, following leads and gradually reaching the truth. It's not a rip-roaring thriller, which is what it has been marketed as to some extent, and I think a lot of people will walk away complaining about how talky it is.

As far as Oscars go, I think that Jessica Chastain is probably the film's best hope for a win in the major categories since the strength of her performance is the least divisive thing about the film. The controversy that has arisen over its depiction of torture makes for good copy and can keep people in think pieces for weeks on end (for the record: I don't think it's a pro-torture film, but that doesn't mean that some of its characters aren't pro-torture) but it also makes it hard for people to rally around it as a consensus choice, especially when it's competing against Lincoln, which is a film with some political relevance but not of the kind that gets it publicly denounced by members of the Academy.

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