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The Hurt Locker, 2009 – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on June 20, 2009

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, David Morse, Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, Evangeline Lilly

This brilliant review is by Richard Bodsworth

It has been almost 18 years since Kathryn Bigelow brought us the 100% adrenaline thrill ride that was Point Break, and after a 7 year hiatus following K-19: The Widowmaker she is back with Iraq war set, THE HURT LOCKER.

Jeremy Renner stars as the maverick leader of the U.S Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, charged with the dangerous job of defusing bombs in the unpredictable war zone that is modern day Iraq. Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty play the other key members of the EOD, struggling to adapt to their leaders gung-ho attitude in an environment where it could all go wrong in a split second.

Hollywood war movies these days usually focus on the dangerous nature of the job, an Action Man figure, scar and all, overcoming ridiculous odds to defeat a stereotypical villain in emphatic fashion, accompanied with emphatic explosions and gore. Bigelow manages to turn this on its head and present us with a gripping, psychological character study into the minds of the men on the front line. But that is not to say the film is void of any action, the opposite in fact. Bigelow directs the many set pieces with outstanding flair and tension without the use of an instrumental score and it works to perfection. Filmed handheld style, this usually unnecessary and overused technique is perfect for the harsh unpredictable terrain of the war zone. This style, accompanied by the authenticity of Mark Boal’s script, you almost get the feeling you are there, perspiring, as Renner attempts to diffuse a rogue device. Even with several disposal scenes, they manage to seem original and fresh and sometimes bloody terrifying. A brilliant example of tension is a silent standoff, peppered only occasionally with the sound of a sniper rifle. Renner directs Mackie’s aim to the enemy as they remain under fire themselves. Another one of my favourite scenes is as Renner attempts to disarm a car bomb, Mackie and Geraghty scour the surrounding buildings panicking over possible conspirators watching on. Here Bigelow teaches a master class in building tension without the need of an instrumental score to bump it up. The enemy here are the actual devices themselves as we very rarely see an actual living enemy attack, this makes it all the more terrifying and is a nice twist for the genre.

The cast themselves are perfect. Renner excels in the lead role, stepping out of his usual supporting roles in the likes of SWAT and 28 Weeks Later. His performance as adrenaline junkie, William James, goes much deeper than normal as we are revealed to deeper problems in his psyche. His scenes with a local Iraqi child and the films final ten minutes or so would usually be omitted from you usual fare, but work so well to build an understanding of a fragile soldier under pressure. Geraghty is also well cast as the nervous member of the group, continuing to build on his indie status and Mackie once again shows he has what it takes to be a great actor. Following on from his standout turn in Half Nelson, he makes the most of a character who could have most easily developed into the stereotypical ‘angry black man’ .

I felt the film could have trimmed a slither of fat from the middle, and I was also left confused by the cameo roles of Guy Pearce, David Morse and Ralph Fiennes. These however are only minor gripes in a almost flawless film.

Time and time again Kathryn Bigelow has taken the Hollywood big boys on at their own game, and she succeeds once again. You have to wonder what she has been up to in the past 7 years and what the future holds. For me the film drew comparisons with TV mini series Generation Kill, showing the army as human beings rather than sensationalised heroes. However of all films set during any Middle East conflict, The Hurt Locker is one of, if not the best depiction. It was a great film to start my film festival run, and it will be very hard to beat.

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