Friday, June 19, 2009

REVIEW: The Hurt Locker...



The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug."
-Chris Hedges


This is the first thing you see when viewing Kathryn Bigelow's new action-thriller, The Hurt Locker. It is a perfect opening card for this phenomenal film.

The Hurt Locker is a portrayal of elite soldiers that, in Iraq, have one of the most dangerous jobs: disarming bombs during combat. One of these soldiers is a new sergeant, James, who is taking over control of a bomb disposal team amidst heated conflict. After the death of Sergeant Matt Thompson, he takes over the team, and surprises his two subordinates, Sanborn and Eldridge, by hurling them, and the viewer, into a deadly game of cat and mouse. This film takes a look at not only the events that this team goes through, but the psychological tole that these events have taken on the men. From being afraid of death, to being indifferent, this film takes a look at three men, and their fight to survive, while staying sane in an insane setting.

The summer movie season has always been known to bring out the biggest action and thrillers out there. This summer has been no different. Terminator 4, Transformers 2, Taking of Pelham 123 are all examples of this.

Well, one that hasn't gotten the same level of hype, at least publicly, is Kathryn Bigelow's film, The Hurt Locker. It's a shame to, as this may be the best yet.

Bigelow may be best known as the woman who has brought us the underrated action film, Point Break, which is a film that I really hold dear to my heart. Bigelow has always had a great eye for action, and this film may be her best film to date.

From the outset, this film is a no hold barred action film, that has edge of your seat thrills. From the opening scene, you are thrust right into the middle of the story. A group of men, in one of the most hostile areas in the world, with the most dangerous job of them all. Not only do these men have to worry about the surroundings that they work in, but their job at hand, disarming bombs, is nothing to shake a stick at.

With each set piece, 4 or 5 to be exact, the level of suspense is amped up, until you get to one of the most tense scenes I've seen in a long time. There is also one scene in particular, a sniper battle, that will haunt you far after the end credits. It's both action packed, and white knuckle tense, and there is not a dull moment during this master's class in war time tension. It's taught, tight, and is similar to a film like Red Eye, in where there is not a single scene wasted. Each scene plays into either the story on screen, or the story in the player's heads.

Not only have we seen a rush of action-thrillers recently, but we also have seen more than our fair share of films based around the Iraq War, with most of them bombing. Rendition was flawed, Lions for Lambs was awful, and Stop-Loss was probably the worst. However, that trend is destroyed with this film. This film not only gives us one of the most taught and suspenseful action films this year, but it also gives us a stark look into one of, if not the most dangerous job on the planet. These men risk their lives on a daily basis, and this film, while being a portrayal of these men, it also takes a really intriguing look at what the idea of losing your life simply doing your job, and what toll that can have on a persons mentality and life. This is much more than a standard action film.

While the action and tension will keep you glued to the screen, it wouldn't be that way without the brilliant cast.

During the film, you follow three soldiers. You have the confident yet reserved Sanborn, played superbly by the always great Anthony Mackie. He is the second in command, yet is much more of the father of the group. He is afraid of dying, and there is one scene between he and Jeremy Renner, who plays the new Sergeant, James, that will leave you heartbroken and wondering why this man isn't a household name yet. Renner is great as well, as he is the opposite of Sanborn and the other crew member, Eldridge played by Brian Geraghty. He is fearless, and a tad bit off his rocker, yet he also has his fears. He is a father, and a husband, and he fears that he may never get to see them again.

Written by Mark Boal, the Hurt Locker is Kathryn Bigelow's newest film. Director of the great Point Break and the less than stellar K-9 The Widowmaker, this film is easily the best in her canon. Along with Barry Ackroyd's cinematography, the two paint a gritty and realistic portrait of these men's lives. It also is aided by the great script from former embedded reporter and Rolling Stone writer, Mark Boal, which gives us a great sense of tension, as well as giving us more than enough great character moments.

That said, the film does have a few flaws.

The main flaw is when the film relies solely on it's character portraits. Particularly in the performance of Renner as Sergeant James, you never completely know what makes each of these people tick. You get hints, like how Sanborn is a bit more conserved because he wants to make it home to have a family, but it's not completely fleshed out, or at least not to the point where it makes total sense. Yes, there is room for ambiguity, but when you have room for more, it leaves the viewer wanting more. Also, the music is a bit overpowering in the film. Not the score, which is almost non existent, but the source music is just a bit mistoned. It fits the characters, but not really my taste, at least for such a tense film.

However, this film is perfect in every other way.

More than an action film, this film can be seen as a top notch character study, about what war can do to people involved in it. Throw these brilliant performances in with the superb direction of Bigelow, and you will have a film you won't soon forget. It works as both a war film, as well as an action film, and is the most brisk, and tense 2 hours you can spend at the theatre this weekend. From the opening scene to the end credits, the pace doesn't slow, and grabs you along for the ride. Please, check this film out.

THE HURT LOCKER - 9/10

Go see something good!

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