The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Sony Pictures - 2012
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 157 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, Joel Edgerton
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Written by: Mark Boal
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: March 19, 2013
For a decade, an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe, devoted themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden. ZERO DARK THIRTY reunites the Oscar-winning team of director-producer Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal (2009, Best Picture, THE HURT LOCKER) for the story of history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man.
I think it is safe to say that we all felt the impact of the terrible events of 9/11. The hunt for those responsible especially the person identified as the shot caller was of the utmost and became the focus of our intelligence agencies. Actually finding Osama Bin Laden seemed like something to wish for that would probably never come to fruition, until May 2011. Hearing the news that he had not only been found but killed by our military provided a means of closure that aided in the healing process of a nation still trying to recover from one of the most devastating events in our history.
Zero Dark Thirty spans the period just after 9/11 through to May 2011 and depicts the covert efforts of the CIA, specifically one woman, whose perseverance and grit was directly responsible for catching one of the most sought after fugitives in the world. I saw Zero Dark Thirty in the theater and remember coming away liking it for its seemingly candid perspective, engaging narrative and riveting performance by Jessica Chastain. I felt its only drawback was what felt like a slightly bloated runtime due to several blow by blow sequences that perhaps didn’t require such minutia.
Sitting down to watch it again for this review I wondered if that feeling would be the same. This time the experience was every bit as involving but the film’s two and a half hours seemed to fly by as I found myself submerged in the nuance, the narrative building blocks and the film’s overall visceral edge. Kathryn Bigelow knows how to pray upon our senses as an audience and derives the most from the cinematic process in terms of thematic context. Zero Dark Thirty is evocative, powerful, intelligent and unapologetic in its dramatization of the events leading up to Osama Bin Laden’s discovery/death.
I liked this film the first time I saw it but loved it the second time. Much of this is owed to Bigelow’s staunch direction and writer Mark Boal’s wonderfully crafted screenplay but the defining element that solidifies this film is the incredible performance of Jessica Chastain in the role of “Maya”. Those who frequently read my reviews have heard me sing her praises, yes she is a personal favorite, but you don’t have to hold her in high regard to appreciate her contribution here. That of course isn’t to minimize the variety of supporting performances that credibly underscore the proceedings.
Despite knowing how it will turn out Zero Dark Thirty is a gripping thriller that serves as an expose that is less about the killing of Osama Bin Laden but more about the looping process, the steadfastness of someone destined to see it through and finally, proof that sometimes one person can make a difference despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Don’t expect to stand up and cheer at the end but be prepared for a reeling and memorable film experience that has made it to my list of favorites.
The rating is for strong violence including brutal disturbing images and language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Zero Dark Thirty comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 26 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.5 Mbps.
Shot digitally this film looks superb on Blu-ray Disc and features glossy high definition video quality that exhibits high level detail, razor sharpness and exquisite definition that brings out lifelike textures captured by the camera’s lens. Dimensional perspective has a near infinite appeal that can be visually stimulating. Close ups are noticeably refined and revealing of the subtlest details within facial features and objects within the frame. Mid level camera pans are equally enriching and offer excellent depth and dimension. Colors are appreciably delineated with natural rendering and punchy primaries that stand out among the remaining spectrum of secondary hues. Fleshtones are rendered with vivid tonality and discerning complexional depiction. Contrast is boldly applied without overstatement as it enlivens colors and drives brightly lit scenes without whitewashing detail. Blacks are gradational and deep which emboldens sequences containing a mix of light and dark elements. Detail in uneven light and darkened environments reveal visible shapes and structure that enhances depth perception. This is a pristine and reference quality presentation that looks terrific on my big screen.
Having seen Zero Dark Thirty in the theater I had high hopes for its soundtrack in the home environment and I wasn’t disappointed. This lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack is demonstration quality and is going to please those who like to play their systems loud. This recording has wide dynamic range and boasts superlative clarity and high level detail that is truly impressive. Dialogue is definitive and appreciably lucid through the center channel as it reaches far into the room. It’s located just slightly in front of the left/right speakers within the acoustic space it occupies within the soundstage. Front channel separation and imaging is excellent. This draws out both large and small sound elements and allows their directional correlation based upon the onscreen events to be readily definable.
Alexandre Desplat’s music score, coupled along with well integrated discrete and atmospheric surround sound effects, plays an intricate role in this sometimes active surround mix. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room’s acoustic environment is excellent. The atmospheric sounds of a crowded square, a confined torture chamber or open desert expanse sound engagingly real. Low frequency effects are applied authoritatively and underscore the bombastic and aggressive aspects of the presentation with aplomb. Its palpable presence is never in question as it fills the room with refined bass quality that is appreciably superior. The assault on the compound beginning with the stealth helicopters take off from base through to their ascent at completion is a terrific example.
This isn’t the type of film that might normally be associated with a perfect technical rating for audio however that doesn’t change that fact that it executes every rating element with precision. I simply couldn’t find fault with it and found it deserving of 100.
- (HD) No small feat – 3 minute featurette
- (HD) The compound – 9 minute featurette
- (HD) Geared up – 7 minute featurette
- (HD) Targeting Jessica Chastain – 5 minutes
- Bonus DVD
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy
Zero Dark Thirty is a gripping and evocative thriller that serves as an expose that is less about the killing of Osama Bin Laden but more about the looping process, the steadfastness of someone destined to see it through and finally, proof that sometimes one person can make a difference despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Quality filmmaking from end to end it is an indelible cinematic experience that has become a personal favorite. Zero Dark Thirty comes to Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring faithful and reference quality audio/video that I found deserving of the rare 100/100 technical rating. The rather light supplemental package is the only disappointing aspect of an other superb Blu-ray offering. Needless to say this one comes highly recommended.
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Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS55 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Onkyo PR-SC5508 THX Ultra 2 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103 Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package