• Kathryn Bigelow: new action realist

      Gaine, Vincent M. (Routledge, 2021-09-02)
      This article argues that Kathryn Bigelow is an auteur of new action realism, a distinct sub-genre within contemporary action cinema. As a new action realist, Bigelow and her collaborators create films that feature unresolved narratives and an aesthetic characterised by claustrophobic immediacy and obscuration. Through discussion of theory, genre, narrative and style in The Hurt Locker (2008) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), I argue that, as a new action realist, Bigelow problematises notions of film realism. Bigelow’s work brings the viewer into intimate and sometimes uncomfortable proximity with the violent action depicted onscreen, this proximity being a key feature of new action realism. The presentation is explicit and sudden, the graphic presentation creating a discomforting nearness which is partially created through immediacy. Such imagery, particularly evident in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, echoes footage captured by military personnel, news reporters and civilians on portable cameras and smart phones, recalling news reports of 9/11 and similar reports of crisis. With this aesthetic of intimacy and immediacy, Bigelow’s new action realism hints at as much as it explicitly presents. This incomplete visual display imbues her films with a sense of confusion and hopelessness and consequently presents a world of fear and paranoia that is simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, captured by and yet obscured by its medium.
    • Surveillance in Zero Dark Thirty: Terrorism, Space and Identity

      Pheasant-Kelly, Frances; Flynn, Susan; Mackay, Antonia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)
      This chapter examines strategies for surveillance in the film Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow, 2012) and considers the ways in which these reflect changes in real-world monitoring of both public and terrorist activities since 9/11. The film is particularly relevant to a consideration of surveillance and space because it charts the ten year search for Osama bin Laden across various locations, a mission that is accomplished through a combination of strategic physical and technological observation. Indeed, its visual style and narrative trajectory are dictated by surveillance, the film thereby epitomising its prevalence in contemporary visual culture since 9/11. The claim here is that the forms of surveillance exercised within the film embody a combination of the models articulated by Michel Foucault (1991) and Thomas Mathiesen (1997), which consider, respectively, how the few view the many and how the many watch the few. The film’s expression of surveillance is likewise concerned with the physical space between the observed and the observer, albeit this is often in terms of geographically greater or more technologically controlled distances. As in the real world situation, predictive profiling is also important, and, while the filmic version of bin Laden’s capture further rests on the seemingly intuitive conclusions of its female protagonist, Maya, this is reflective of the input of women CIA analysts in the search for him (Bergen, 2013: 77). Because it is a production based on real events, an analysis of the film offers opportunities to consider the implementation of real-world surveillance, the multiple forms that this can take, and its potential inadequacies as well as its increasing significance in combating terrorism.