A three man bomb disposal unit for the U.S. Army struggles to come to grips with a new leader, the impending end of their tour in Baghdad, and the strain that comes of knowing that nearly every citizen is a potential trigger-man for the bombs they disarm.
What do the movies Point Break, K-19: The Widowmaker, The Weight of Water, and Blue Steel all have in common, my personal tastes aside? Each had a sense of dry intensity that permeated even the "relaxed scenes", each had an oddly poignant sense of life and death, and each was directed by Kathryn Bigelow. So it's no wonder she's the director behind The Hurt Locker- a movie that not only delivers enough intensity and stress to make you crush your soda bottle, but tells the story of three men who's job is eat, sleep, and breath it.
The movie operates off the same principals that make the bombs there-in so terrifying: You have know idea when or where one might go off, but you know that when it happens it will be petrifyingly big, and perfectly deadly. And after a nearly eight minute opening sequence designed specifically to teach you these two things, that tension is perpetuated throughout nearly all of the remaining hour and twenty-three minutes.
The handsome duo of Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty play Sgt. Sanborn and Spec. Eltridge, two-thirds of the bomb disposal team. They play there parts to perfection. Remember the chemistry these two shared in their scenes in We Are Marshall? Well multiply that by 10 and you have their chemistry in The Hurt Locker. The third man, and new team leader in the unit is played by the unstoppably good looking Jeremy Renner who, like the rest of this movie, deserves every ounce of praise he's been receiving. At times his character plays a Training Day-esque game of keeping the audience (and his subordinates) guessing at whether he's the hero or the villain. Together these three are an amazing ensemble that takes an already incredible movie to the brink. These are three faces I am glad to see getting the spotlight, and that I will definitely be keeping an eye out for in the future.
One of the things that I really liked about this movie was it's lack of political charge. For every "good" character just trying to do their job and go home, there was a "bad" one out to abuse their position or impose their own will. Rather than focus on the political ramifications of the war, writer Mark Boal chose to look at the personal ramifications for three men who are fighting in it. Which makes the story so much more compelling.
There were two things about direction choices of this movie that had caught my eye as odd. These would be the closest things I have to complaints. But upon sitting down to write this review I could barely remember what they were- that says something. In a movie that aims to be a dose of anxiety from beginning to end, there was only one scene that I felt was predictable- and it was still gripping to watch.
This movie is an experience for the big screen, but even if you have to wait for the DVD make sure you see it. The Hurt Locker is for sure in my top five favorites of the year, and easily in the running for top three. A truly spectacular movie.
Reel Deal Recommends:
Jarhead: for another great military movie with Brian Geraghty that chooses the personal over the political.
Million Dollar Baby: for a beautiful told story and a stand out performance from Anthony Mackie.
28 Weeks Later: For another bloody U.K. adventure and more Jeremy Renner.