Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is one of the best films of the year, and quite possibly the best narratives dealing with the Iraq war thus far. It follows a division of bomb defusing technicians in Baghdad- quite possibly the most dangerous job in the war. Paraphrasing one of the main characters- if you see them coming, run the other way. The movie delves deeply into psyche of these soldiers, what it takes for them to do what they have to do.

The movie essentially opens with Sergent William James (Jeremy Renner) joining Bravo Company. To put things diplomatically, he is slightly unstable. Whether this is a result or a cause of repeated tours in Afghanistan and Iraq is up for debate. The ending sheds some light on this, but still raises more questions. Regardless, his disregard for protocol puts him at odds with one of his partners- Sergent JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie). Rounding out the team is Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), the least seasoned of the group, having difficulty cutting his teeth in actual combat. The movie follows the day to day challenges the soldiers face, and what they do to cope.

The dynamic between the three of these actors is what really brings Hurt Locker to life. They're all relative unknowns, and when you throw them in this environment, they really don't seem like actors. Even the few big stars in the film- Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, and David Morse- I didn't recognize. Granted they had small roles. The upshot, though, is that they all just seemed like soldiers.

Kathryn Bigelow shot this movie to look almost like a documentary. The cameras are among the action- shaky, but not too shaky. Instead of the intentionally disorienting direction of movies like the Bourne series, Hurt Locker gives the impression of someone actually trying to keep the camera stable amidst the action. This adds a tremendous amount of realism to the movie.

The Hurt Locker balances extremely tense moments- whether they're disarming loads of explosives or pinned down by a sniper in the open desert- with scenes of the soldiers in their spare time- playing soccer, and just getting drunk. Despite this contrast, you never forget that they're still in a war torn country. Scenes late in the movie bring these two worlds crashing together, and even when they're away from the battlefield, these soldiers are still affected by it.

The closing of the movie left a little to be desired. The style changed drastically, and it left the timeline a little ambiguous (though I'm a part of the campy that thinks everything is actually linear). It leaves you unsure about some important events. But this was a very small part of the movie. For the record, I don't know what Hurt Locker means. I've heard several different ideas, all seeming equally probable. If anyone knows definitively, let me know.


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