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I’m happy to see I’m not the only one to make this connection: Captain Phillips (2013) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012) are, in many ways, the same film. The subtle and not so subtle pro-Americanism; the fear and hatred of non-Americans; the positive depiction of a large (and expensive) military; an everyman/woman protagonist who, through their commitment to duty, overcomes the non-American threats; the narrative thrust and resolution; the cathartic feeling at the death of the non-Americans, deaths which resulted from an overwhelming American military force.

The two films’ many Academy Award Nominations is disturbing to say the least. These two films, alongside the myriad superhero films of late, are part of a new brand of Hollywood Realism. There is a definitive style and tone to these features and these creatively neutral (and bland) works demand some careful attention. In Captain Phillips and Zero Dark Thirty, the directors, production crew, even some of the scenes could be interchangeable.

I hope someone follows up and writes a careful analysis of these propagandist films, both in terms of their content and in their style.

Captain Phillips and Zero Dark Thirty commentary:

Andrew O’Hehir (Salon)

Michael Crowley (Time)

Spencer Kornhaber (The Atlantic)

Chris Klimek (NPR)

Kyle Buchanan (Vulture)