Saturday, March 6, 2010

Review: The Hurt Locker (2009)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty

Magnificent - simply magnificent. The Hurt Locker is a wonderful film on several levels, from being a great war film to a greater character study. There are a lot of reasons why this movie is great, so...let's not waste any time, then. Let's just get started.

For one, maybe it's just because I haven't seen enough war movies, but I just love the whole idea behind this movie. It's about a bomb squad in Iraq, focusing specifically on three guys in the team in the dregs of their perilous forty-day mission to disarm the area of various bombs. It's really exciting. The tension is just electric. You will be on the edge of your seat - this is some seriously fiery, intense stuff. As they go out and risk their lives, you feel like you're risking yours. There's something incredibly drawn out and tired about this, and people who aren't watching with their full attention might mistake this for boredom, but really it's just doing what any war movie does, setting the atmosphere. War isn't glamorous, it's tiring, parching and incredibly dire, and this movie makes you feel all of that. So it works.

The characters are the second main drawing point. There's Sanborn, who is cautious, soldierly and wise, Eldridge, who is younger and not exactly happy about having to risk his life every day, worried about dying in Iraq, and Thompson. Thompson, who...gets blown up a few minutes in, and is replaced by Sergeant Will James, who is the protagonist of the picture. He is a very well written character, one of the best I have seen out of mainstream films of recent times. The writing is just fantastic, the acting is wonderful and as such, the character becomes incredibly fascinating and engaging. The emotional draw is there, and he really just feels like a real life person who this could have been a documentary about.

I mean...this is just amazing. It's nothing but distilled cinematic wonder. Character development and suspense. There's something very human and real about all of this, that other movies I see out of Hollywood do not have. Sergeant James is depicted as a daredevil, going into dangerous situations without armor and removing his helmet to concentrate without his teammates talking in his ear. In one particularly memorable scene, he leads his squadron down dark alleys to chase the men who he suspects of killing the young Iraqi boy whom he had previously forged a friendship with. As Eldridge is assaulted, James' solution is to shoot him in the leg to surprise his attackers and get them out of there.

A dire plan, and it shows his biggest character flaw in his mad thirst for thrills, but that's what makes his character so good. He talks apathetically about his home life, and when he gets there, after his session is over, he can't seem to get back in the groove of things. The quote at the beginning of the film said 'war is a drug,' and that turns out to be true at the end as he steps back into the fray for an undefined amount of time. It's his calling - everyone has a place in the world and this is his.

And the other two guys are almost on that same level of greatness, character-wise. They really play off each other well, with their insecurities and motives clashing and making you feel like you're right there with them. I especially liked Eldridge's last lines as he's being carted off after being shot by James. "Thanks for saving my life...but fuck you for dragging us out on your little missions just so you can get your adrenaline fix!"

I think if I had to pick one scene as my favorite, it'd be the last bomb they had to disarm, attached to the guy. Everything about this scene just bleeds tension and suspense, and the way it unfolds is like watching a ticking Armageddon clock. It's just a great scene, and a satisfactory last action scene to go out on.

The Hurt Locker is a wonderful film. Say it's not accurate if you want, say it's too romanticized or whatever, but that's the thing - it's a movie. So what if it's a bit overblown? This is a great movie, with character writing as superb as it gets, exciting action scenes and a pace and motif that rewards the patient viewer. Every scene leaves an impact. The movie is powerful like a power surge to the entire body. See it, see it now.