Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie Star in The Hurt Locker
This past Sunday, Geoffrey and I went to see the “Iraqi bomb squad” movie that everyone is talking about, The Hurt Locker. It’s taken me a couple of days to digest my thoughts, because “intense” is really not strong enough of a word to describe this movie-going experience. And I usually don’t like war movies – the exception being Full Metal Jacket – but I really liked The Hurt Locker, and wanted to blog about it, but was having trouble translating my thoughts into words. This morning I found a really fantastic review of the movie on, of all places, a financial newsletter I read daily at my office job. So I just decided to post that and credit the source, because it’s a really excellent movie and, review-wise, I really couldn’t do any better than this. Review courtesy of Here Is The City.
If your idea of a great night at the movies is biting your fingernails for two hours, The Hurt Locker might just offer the best value for your cinema admission fee. War movies are usually not a barrel of laughs, and The Hurt Locker is not a game changer in this matter. Being the story of a bomb squad stationed in Baghdad, it follows a group American soldiers who are on call for suspiciously parked cars, suicide bombers or pretty much anything found with wires attached to it. Even if you think that yours is the worst job in the world, it will take little persuasion to realize that being a bomb technician in Iraq beats most other professions hands down.
The Hurt Locker throws us straight into the action. Literally from the first scene, we are brutally exposed to what it feels like to be part of a squad that has to fear for their lives wherever they go. The nowadays so common shaky camera is used – not gratuitously however – to make us feel like we’re in the middle of the proceedings. And it works a trick as you are biting your nails from the opening credits until the very end.
In terms of story, the film is little more than a series of set pieces in which the bomb experts are called into action. There is hardly any downtime in between them, and director Kathryn Bigelow does a terrific job in staging these scenes with extreme intensity. She is definitely helped by a script based on the experiences of a journalist embedded with a bomb squad in Iraq, which leaves little doubt about the authenticity of the events
But besides the action – and sometimes even in the middle of the action – there are moments that are moving almost to the extent of being heartbreaking. If you take the suicide bomber “who is not a bad man, he’s a family man,” you will understand what this means.
Without giving too much away, Bigelow has to be praised for mixing famous and lesser known actors, and not sticking to the pattern of having the famous ones live and the lesser known ones bite the bullet (or bombs, as the case may be). The movie is essentially carried by the actors Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie who put in stellar performances as two soldiers. For the former, war is a drug he is addicted to. For the latter, it is something he wants to get out of to start a family.
Crucially, Bigelow does not judge on whether the war is just or unjust. She just makes it clear that it is hell for the Americans, the Iraqi population, and consequentially also for the viewer. Not an easy thing to watch, but in the end it makes it all the more rewarding.