The Films of Kathryn Bigelow
Point Break (August 3/09)
Though it's overlong by about half an hour, Point Break boasts a number of overtly positive attributes that effectively cement its success - with Kathryn Bigelow's superb direction and the uniformly impressive performances setting the movie apart from its similarly-themed brethren. The storyline follows green FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) as he goes deep undercover within Los Angeles' surfing scene in an effort at tracking down a group of notorious bank robbers; problems ensue as Johnny finds himself drawn into the laid-back lifestyle of several beach bums, including a scrappy tomboy (Lori Petty's Tyler) and Patrick Swayze's mysterious (yet personable) Bodhi. Bigelow has infused the early part of Point Break with a deliberate sensibility that essentially ensures that the movie doesn't quite kick into high gear until about the one-hour mark, with the consistent emphasis on Bodhi and his waterfront pals' easy-going antics establishing a low-key atmosphere that's perpetuated by the inclusion of an almost excessive amount of slow-motion surfing scenes. Reeves and Swayze's thoroughly charismatic work - as well as Bigelow's impressive, frequently jaw-dropping visuals - proves effective at sustaining the viewer's interest even through the film's relatively uneventful stretches, with the transformation from agreeable drama to enthralling thriller triggered by an absolutely electrifying interlude in which Johnny and his fellow cops raid a house full of armed punks. The inclusion of an equally compelling car/foot chase just a few minutes later secures Point Break's place as an above-average actioner, and it's ultimately impossible not to lament the dearth of such endeavors from contemporary multiplexes.
The Weight of Water
K-19: The Widowmaker
The Hurt Locker
Click here for review.
Zero Dark Thirty (February 26/16)
Zero Dark Thirty details the massive manhunt that occurred in the wake of 9/11 to find infamous al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden, with the narrative primarily following obsessive CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain) as she doggedly pursues one clue after another during the course of her tireless investigation. It's clear virtually from the get-go that Zero Dark Thirty's almost relentless emphasis on the aforementioned investigation cements its downfall, as filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow, working from Mark Boal's script, details the minutia of Maya's efforts to a progressively exhausting and tedious degree (ie this may all be very accurate but it sure isn't interesting). The less-than-engrossing atmosphere is compounded by a ludicrously overlong running time (157 minutes!) and an almost total absence of three-dimensional protagonists, with Boal's script eschewing anything resembling character development in favor of constant (and relentless) exposition. It's a repetitive structure that ensures Zero Dark Thirty remains completely uninvolving for much of its first half, with the hands-off vibe persisting right up until Maya and others begin formulating a plan designed to capture or kill bin Laden at his fortified desert compound. There's little doubt that that stretch boasts an intensity and excitement that's sorely missing from the remainder of the proceedings, and it's ultimately not quite enough to compensate for the unforgivably dull nature of Zero Dark Thirty's opening hour and a half - which does confirm the movie's place as a rather disappointing misfire from an otherwise above-average filmmaker.
Detroit (August 27/17)
Based on true events, Detroit transpires during the infamous title riots of the late 1960s and follows several characters as they attempt to emerge from the situation with their very lives intact. Filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow delivers an almost excessively uneven endeavor that boasts a somewhat promising opening stretch, as the director, working from a script by Mark Boal, delivers a first act that effectively captures the chaos and confusion inherent in such a scenario - with the intriguing atmosphere heightened by a sprawling approach that's reflected most keenly in the narrative's myriad of disparate characters (including Will Poulter's corrupt cop and John Boyega's earnest security guard). It's an ambitious start that's slowly-but-surely diminished by Boal's unfocused, padded-out screenplay, with, especially, the filmed-play vibe of the movie's often interminable second act playing an instrumental role in Detroit's palpable downfall. (Boal delivers a midsection that seems to concern itself entirely with characters being tormented by dirty police officers, with this section's one-note feel certainly paving the way for a fairly interminable second half that rarely packs the visceral, emotional punch Bigelow is striving for.) The movie's failure is ultimately cemented by an almost entirely disastrous closing section, which revolves around the trial stemming from the aforementioned evil-cops storyline, and it's difficult, in the end, not to wonder what Bigelow and Boal were hoping to accomplish with this unfocused, overlong misfire.