Friday, August 14, 2009

Movie Review - The Hurt Locker

In a word: Wow! Director extraordinaire Kathyn Bigelow pulls off one of the best films of the year in this zinger of a tale about a bomb squad working a lethal beat in Iraq while navigating the equally dangerous dynamics of learning to trust their fellow team members. Jeremy Renner delivers an electrifying performance as Sgt. Will James, a fearless adrenalin junkie who goes cowboy in the face of danger, putting his two fellow soldiers Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) at risk. Not to mention making their job of ensuring his safety next to impossible. A tense, effective opening scene sets the stage perfectly with the original team leader Sgt. Thompson (Guy Pearce in a memorable, if brief, appearance) becoming the victim of a quick series of unfortunate errors. We're immediately in the land of relentless paranoia where these soldiers live, desperately watching every doorway, rooftop and passerby for the smallest of clues. Is that man in the market making a call on his cell or signaling the detonation of a bomb? Is that kid just wandering up the street or is there a package of explosives under his shirt? This movie puts the typical action story to shame with razor sharp editing, one riveting nailbiter scene after another and, most importantly, three involving characters (James, Sanborn and Eldridge) who mysteriously work their way into our sympathies. One of the most impressive achievements of the film is the way in which these soldiers seem so typical yet become so individual in their approaches to the hell in which they find themseleves.

Although Renner is the standout in the cast, with the flashiest role and the most screentime, his supporting actors Mackie and Geraghty are equally impressive along with an almost unrecognizable Ralph Fiennes as a team leader the bomb squad encounters in the middle of the desert. Mackie in particular delivers a character of depth and substance, making Sanborn's growing frustration and conflict with James extremely dynamic. Of course the other real star of the movie is director Bieglow whose previously established ability with action sequences (in such films as "Point Break", "Strange Days" and "Near Dark") comes to full fruition here. Aided by outstanding cinematography (from Barry Ackroyd) and writing (Mark Boal), Bigelow has created a diamond of a film -- brilliant, sparkling, perfectly cut, cold, clear and a thing of brutal beauty to behold.

Things to love about this movie: The clever use of a running countdown of days left in Iraq for the soldiers; one of the most effective depictions of a soldier's return to civilian life I've ever seen; the perfect ending; some nice little touches like a shot of a gritty street cat or James' connection with a soccer playing kid
Things to hate about this movie: Can't think of a thing
Pleasant surprises: For a story about men and explosives there's a welcome subtle touch to many of the most powerful points in the film; James proves to be much more complicated than he first appears; no explicit scenes of animals or humans being blown away
Unpleasant surprises: None

1 comment:

delta mystery writer said...

Your review of this excellent movie doesn't miss a thing. For me, it is certainly the best picture so far of 2009. Thanks again for hitting the nail on the head. The only comment I could make would be "I agree, I agree."