Saturday, August 8, 2009

A movie review: The Hurt Locker (2009)

The Hurt Locker (2009)
Director - Kathryn Bigelow
Runtime - 131 min; R

Jeremy Renner - Staff Sergeant William James
Anthony Mackie - Sergeant JT Sanborn
Brian Geraghty - Specialist Owen Eldridge

Normal people do not voluntarily approach bombs. They just don’t. They run away from them – quickly. They also don’t poke at them and cut wires and try to diffuse them. Again, they just don’t. War changes a lot of things about normal people.

I’m afraid that I lack too much in the ways of communication to accurately convey just how wonderful The Hurt Locker is from start to finish. I haven’t seen every ‘war’ movie ever made, so I can only draw on my knowledge of those films I have seen, those that have dealt with The Great Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and now, Iraq.

Staff Sergeant James (Jeremy Renner) is a cocky but very self-assured US soldier who voluntarily diffuses bombs. He does so in an over-sized protective suit that, in all likely-hood, will do very little in the way of protection. He knows this. He still does his job. Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) are there covering him as he does his job. These men are not friends, but they are a team, and though they are not perfect, they figure out ways to survive.

Films about the war in Iraq have had very little acclaim. Either they just haven’t been done well, or people just aren’t willing to give them a chance. In the Valley of Elah (2007) was a wonderful film and everyone should see it, but it tackles the subject of war from an onlookers perspective. What director Kathryn Bigelow (Blue Steel (1989)) gives us is the perspective of the soldier, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I was particularly gripped by the realistic feel of this movie. We don’t get all the information we need to always know what is happening, but we get enough to understand what is happening. We realize there are ‘good’ guys and ‘bad’ guys and ‘neutral’ guys, but we don’t really know a lot about whom is whom, and we don’t really need to know, because this film is not so concerned with any kind of cathartic conclusion, rather, it is dealing with a few specific soldiers in Iraq and the turmoil they go through (physically and emotionally) as they do their job in the desert.

This film works with changes in day and night beautifully, and leaves us filled with tension as we follow these men through a barren land in the harshest of circumstances. People are changed by war. The people in this film are changed by war. But they do their jobs and they count the days until they can leave.

***** out of 5

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