Written by: Joseph Randazzo, Special to CC2K
Kathryn Bigelow's new war movie delivers.
I know this review is a little late, but I guess as the saying goes, better late then never. And man do I know about a thousand sexually active teenage boys and girls crying in the shower who believe that little fact to be true.
The Iraq war is no small subject. There have been protests, speeches, riots, millions of pages written about it and billions of hours devoted to talking about the subject. So what a perfect time to come along and make an Iraq war movie right?
Here is the thing, if you want a scathing review of the war, its causes and a poignant anti-war movie…keep on walking. If you want a flag waving, pro-American invasion, we did the right thing movie…keep on walking.
The brilliance of this movie is that it is neither of them. The Hurt Locker is more a character study of a group of men rather then of the character study of the war. It doesn’t play sides and it and we are all better for it.
There are several movies I have seen in the theater that have had me literally gripping the soda holders; Signs, 28 Weeks Later and Knocked Up to name a few. This movie accomplishes that task and shows a very scary situation with very brave men doing an almost unthinkable job.
This movie plays it for realism and from start to finish it accomplishes her task. There is action, inner and outer conflict, tension, pathos and heart. This is greatly due to writer Mark Boal (In the Valley of Elah) who wrote the script after being embedded with an U.S. Army bomb squad for several weeks.
Director Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break) ratchets up the tension from the get go, with claustrophobic shots expertly set out in the open dessert (filmed in Jordan for a very authentic feel). She places us in a world where you do not know which way to turn and who to trust and who is out to kill you. You actually feel like you are there, with only two people to trust and they are the men at your side. But what if the man at your side doesn’t care about his life?
The story takes place around bomb disposal technician Staff Sergeant William James played well by Jeremy Renner (SWAT and 28 Weeks Later). James comes into the picture after the last bomb technician gets killed. He leads and is flanked by his support team; the eyes, ears and guns of Anthony Mackie (Eagle Eye and Notorious) and Brian Geraghty (We are Marshall and Jarhead).
James’ tactics go beyond unconventional and border on suicidal. This understandably unnerves his teammates who are already heavily on edge after watching their last team leader get blown up in front of them. Emotions run high due to James possibly insane behavior and the incredibly tense situation that they are already in.
The movie counts down from 39 days until rotation home and each day is another improvised explosive device (IED) designed to kill and maim. The action sequences are not glorified and not overly dramatic; there are no massive gun battles (just one long, slow and brutal one) and no one walking slowly away from explosions and not looking (just running and praying).
Throughout the movie you wonder about James’ actions. Is he insane? Is he suicidal? Is he just the best and cocksure? And you won’t get any easy answers from this movie. They somewhat reveal what he hates and cannot deal with, but not what drives him to do what he does. You have to come to your own conclusions, which in a society where plot is spoon-fed to you, is a nice touch.
Evangeline Lilly, Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce all show up long enough for you to turn to your friend and say, hey isn’t that…??
I saw this movie with a friend of mine, who upon walking out, exclaimed “I have no right to complain about anything ever again.” No matter your political leaning, when you see what these guys go through on a daily basis portrayed in such a realistic fashion, you can’t help but feel respect and admiration. And isn’t that what good movies are supposed to do? Move us in some way? To put us in someone else’s shoes? If only for 131 minutes… mission accomplished
Bottom Line: Not a feel good movie, not a depressing weeper. Just a damn good movie which hopefully will be considered for an Oscar for its gritty realistic portrayals of man and war.