Posts Tagged ‘Black Hawk Down’

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REVIEW: The Hurt Locker (2009)

January 20, 2010

Quite easily the best movie of 2009 and the best war movie since Black Hawk Down and maybe even beyond that, The Hurt Locker does something that few other war movies seem to be able to do. Rather than focusing on rapid-action combat scenes and the oh-so-emotional mental breakdowns that all soldiers seem to dramatically endure in Hollywood (Platoon, much?), it emphasizes the relationships of soldiers and the intensity of everyday living in Iraq– intensity that doesn’t diminish when the guns are holstered. And that’s where you’ll see the real difference.

The film introduces a seemingly new and unique idea by following a U.S. Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team as they go around defusing potential bombs all around town– a concept that allows the typical fast-action war theme to take a backseat to the dramatic intensity of the three team members’ escapades and arguments. It’s all about survival and this time around, it’s the calm, isolated atmosphere and the feeling of never being truly safe that creates the ever-present suspense. The exceptional editing is partially to thank for such constant energy and pace. Quick transitions ensure that there is never a dull moment and the audience is always thrust into the middle of the action. Plus, director Kathryn Bigelow employed some amazing cinematography (thanks to Barry Ackroyd, United 93) and some of the best shaky handheld-cam and zoom work I’ve seen yet. It seems that, for some, this might be a turn-off, but personally, I believe those who complain about shaky cam need to take a closer look at its purpose and realize that it’s far more effective in establishing a documentary-like feel for raw and engaging films such as this one.

The interaction between the soldiers is a key point of the film and the entire project is clearly intended to be largely character-driven. You will more than likely find yourself sympathizing with all of the main characters at some point and several others along the way. More than just observing a character’s breakdown at the scene of war such as in films like Jarhead, The Hurt Locker immerses the viewer in the world of the characters themselves and practically forces you to care for them– and I mean that in the best way possible. And perhaps the difference is also partially distinguished by the quality of acting. And if there’s anyone who deserves recognition for their acting, it’s most certainly Jeremy Renner, who surprises with a top-notch performance as Staff Sergeant William James. His performance will have you laughing at bits of humor scattered throughout, gasping in disbelief at one point, shedding a sympathetic tear at another, and yelling at him in exasperation in yet another scene. The characters are never two-dimensional and the film always manages to provide constant reminders that all of the soldiers are just normal people in war situations, driving its purpose home even more effectively. Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty are impressive in their own roles and share great chemistry both with each other and with Renner. The relationships between the three follow no stereotyped guidelines and their interactions are almost always unpredictable. Further down the billing, Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes also give solid performances worth mentioning.

Overall, The Hurt Locker is a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through and packs a visual and cinematographic punch without the over-the-top Hollywood action scenes and special effects. While the storyline may be inaccurate when it comes to certain little details (as many war vets have noted), it’s a unique one and allows for much more realistic and well-rounded characters. You’ll walk away with your heart still beating fast for a good while after the credits roll and it’ll make you think for an even further extended period of time. Everything about its design and execution will stick with you.

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