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Zero Dark Thirty Blu-ray Review

zero-dark-thirty-blu-ray-coverU.S. Release

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit), English Audio Descriptive Service 5.1, English Dolby Surround 2.0
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: R
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Digital Copies: UltraViolet
  • Run Time: 157 Mins.
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: March 19, 2013
  • List Price: $40.99

 

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(The below TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:3.5/5]

Zero-Dark-Thirty-BD_01

Over a decade on from the terrorist attacks that brought down the Twin Towers, and director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, the duo who brought us The Hurt Locker, have teamed up again for Zero Dark Thirty. The story follows how the U.S. Government’s relentless War on Terror in the wake of those 9/11 attacks led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

A surprisingly straightforward procedural, the film centers on CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain), who begins her campaign to find bin Laden by witnessing the more brutal torture tactics of her colleague Dan (Jason Clarke) during the George W. Bush administration in an attempt to extract information. This first part of the film garnered some of the most controversy surrounding it. The graphic depictions of the country’s torture tactics and what many felt was the implication that this actually led to pertinent information on the capture of bin Laden, a point in contention amongst those actually involved in the manhunt, are less a focal point than one would expect going in. They are more a jumping off point for a wider discussion on the changes in the nation brought about by the tragedy.It’s part of a wider narrative in which we see the slow progression of tactics in the War on Terror from one administration to the next over the course of a decade.

At the heart remains Maya, whose frustration with the Washington machine with which she butts heads at every turn, keeps her motivated. Their refusal to move on crucial information and change their thinking is a constant source of exasperation, be it due to the slow-moving beast that is Washington politics, simply pigheadedness, or the male-dominated town’s inability to take a woman seriously. Eventually Maya is able to get movement on information gathered on a person, known as the courier, who may have connections to bin Laden. This leads to the the most spectacular part of the film, its finale, the raid on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan.

As fascinating a story as this could have been, Zero Dark Thirty is hindered by a screenplay by Mark Boal that plays things too safely. Perhaps it is out of a sense of propriety in deference to the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families, but Zero Dark Thirty is rather dull by the standards of most Hollywood thrillers. The characters at the center of the story, particularly Maya, are single-minded, existing only in the bubble of their pursuit of bin Laden. While this would make for a great documentary, it doesn’t make for an effective thriller, especially when we already know the outcome. We have no investment in the characters at all. It’s at the point where, during various suicide bomber attacks, with all due respect, we almost don’t feel anything for the victims that we are supposed to, because they haven’t allowed us to connect with them.

None of that takes way from the formidable conclusion that proves Bigelow has the chops as a superb director of action films. Just as in The Hurt Locker, the ending of Zero Dark Thirty is nothing short of brilliant, and far surpasses the made-for-TV film of this same story, Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Zero-Dark-Thirty-BD_02

Zero Dark Thirty was shot in high definition using Arri Alexa M and Arri Alexa Plus cinematographic high definition cameras. The image has a filmic quality to it despite being a digital production, and in areas where video noise is apparent, it tends to look more organic and grain-like than harsh. Contrast is strong and shadow details are nicely nuanced with no apparent crush in darker colors. There’s strong textural information imparted to clothing and skin with no issues whatsoever concerning compression or post-processing anomalies or misdeeds like aliasing or edge enhancement. In all, this is a fine AVC/MPEG-4 1080p transfer from Sony.

Audio Quality

[Rating:5/5]

Zero-Dark-Thirty-BD_03

Even better is the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit). It opens with the haunting sounds of 911 calls on 9/11 echoing through the soundstage against a completely black screen and from there we are given a naturally dynamic mix. The surround channels fill with multiple discrete atmospheric foley sounds that capture the din of the Abbottabad streets, or suicide bombings ringing out through the entire soundstage with robust low end. The dialogue is clear with no clipping.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2.5/5]

Zero-Dark-Thirty-BD_04

Only a few brief production featurettes are included. Given the subject of the film, one would think this would have presented the opportunity to include a much broader discussion or documentary, rather than this light, pat-on-the-back material.

The supplements:

  • DVD
  • UltraViolet
  • No Small Feat (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:03:51)
  • The Compound (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:09:25)
  • Geared Up (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:07:03)
  • Targeting Jessica Chastain (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:05:19)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Zero-Dark-Thirty-BD_05

Less a thriller or even deep introspective look at the decade-long manhunt for the most infamous international criminal the world has seen, Zero Dark Thirty is a slow, at times one-dimensional telling of the details leading up to the raid on and subsequent killing of Osama bin Laden. Jessica Chastain plays her role well with the material she’s given, but in the end Zero Dark Thirty never soars to the lofty heights it seems to be trying to attain.

 

Additional Screen Captures

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BestBuy.com:
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Best Buy Exclusive:
Zero Dark Thirty (Bby) - Blu-ray Disc

Purchase Zero Dark Thirty on Blu-ray Combo Pack at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

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