The Hunt for Bin Laden Comes Home

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Zero Dark Thirty is out now on Blu-ray and DVD, so if you missed it in theaters you can see it for yourself from the privacy of your own couch. Three months after its initial screenings, the movie itself holds up and everything said in our original review still stands. Since we published that review, the movie’s accuracy has been attacked by Washington politicians concerned about their own images, attacked by Pakistanis embarrassed that their country allowed Osama bin Laden in hide in plain sight and pretty much shut out at the Oscars when Hollywood decided to embrace the not-s0-scary Argo instead.

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The Blu-ray presentation is spectacular. ZDT was shot digitally instead of on film and the high-def presentation really highlights the visual detail the format can deliver. The effects shots are seamless and the sound mix is incredible. It’s really one of those showpiece titles you can use to show off a first-class home theater setup.

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While there’s no commentary track from director Kathryn Bigelow or screenwriter Mark Boal, there are four new short documentaries about the making of ZDT with a lot of emphasis on the military consultants who helped make the film. The Compound details the construction of the movie’s fake Abbottabad  compound, a design based on photographs and detailed stories from the SEALs who conducted the raid. Geared Up talks about the ersatz SEAL training the actors received and the design of the movie version of the stealth copters used to fly the SEALs from Afghanistan (alleged verdict from people who would know: they look a lot like the real thing). No Small Feat is a standard (but good) making-of featurette and Targeting Jessica Chastain looks at how the actress developed her crucial role at the center of the film.

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Both Bigelow and Boal come off as artists concerned with getting their story right (right, not necessarily factual) rather than agitators promoting a political agenda (something they’ve been accused of by commentators on both the Left and the Right). The highlight of all the special features is Chris Pratt, who comes off more like Andy from Parks & Recreation than a serious actor boy as he tells stories from the set.

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The DVD has the exact same extras as the Blu-ray, so you’re not missing anything if you don’t have the latest system. The DVD transfer looks really good also (better than streaming or TV but not close to the Blu-ray). The Blu-ray comes with a copy of the DVD and both versions come with an Ultraviolet copy of the movie if you’ve figured out how to use that system (but no downloadable digital copy). The Ultraviolet stream looks okay but suffers in the darker scenes, something that this movie has a lot of.

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Also available now is Zero Dark Thirty: The Shooting Script, a book that features Mark Boal’s screenplay, an interesting Q&A where he talks about the process of writing the script and a selection of storyboards from the movie. Also included are the film’s complete end credits, a bonus that allowed me to confirm that the song used in the interrogation scene is “Pavlov’s Dog” by early-‘90s NYC hardcore band Rorschach.

So: Zero Dark Thirty. This is where we probably get off after a year of anticipation, controversy and not-quite-universal acclaim. Few movies have tried to portray the grind-it-out, relentless day-to-day efforts required from our intelligence operations around the world and none have come close to doing it as well as this one. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop by the Redbox on your way home and check it out for yourself.

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