The Hurt Locker

>> Monday, February 1, 2010

I've been wanting to see this for a long time. I missed it in the theaters. I had heard so many raves about it that it became a must-see film for me. There's been so many films about the Iraq War recently; most of which haven't made much of a dent in national consciousness. I remember hearing a lot about Brian De Palma's Redacted, which received terrible reviews, and some other movie with Jessica Biel whose title I can't even remember.

The Hurt Locker doesn't involve any politics, which many have said may make the film a bit more timeless than other war movies. Kind of hard to imagine. I remember when I first saw Platoon. It didn't feel dated when I saw it. Now when I catch parts of it on tv, it feels dated. I'm sure that something like that will happen to The Hurt Locker, eventually. It's a politics-free movie, but I think the quote by Chris Hedges ("The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.") will probably date the movie, eventually. It seems to be an accurate observation in the age of large volunteer-based armies such as the United States military, but too general to be accurate for every war ever fought. But the theme of young men not being able to let go of fighting pops up in subtle ways. There's the guy who plays a violent video game when he has free time (what happened to book reading?); guys rough-housing one evening after drinking. These guys don't get a lot of relaxation time and don't seem to wind down even after watching guys they know get blown to bits.

My palms were sweaty through most of the movie. I figured that Jeremy Renner had to make it through most of the movie since he was the lead, but still, with a countdown noting how many days left are in their rotation, you can't help but wonder if something is going to go wrong and one of them is going to get shot or be blown to bits. It happens.

I watched it once and then watched the commentary. Now, a day later, I'm kind of wishing I could watch it again, except I've already returned it. Watching it with the commentary helped me appreciate some of the acting a bit more as I couldn't hear the actors say their lines. I could just see their faces while producer/director Kathryn Bigelow and producer/writer Mark Boal were talking. Stress and exhaustion in the actors' eyes at a few points looked absolutely authentic.

Kathryn Bigelow will be the first woman to win Best Director. I am sure of it now. That may seem like a premature statement to make on the eve of the Oscar nomination announcements, but it sure feels like something you can take to the bank. The scene staging and overall execution is just flawless. Rolling out the superlatives seems a bit cheesy, but I think it's certainly merited. I think of the bomb scene near the fictional UN building. We follow three characters, know completely where they are and how they feel about their situation, which is constantly changing, along with bystanders, who may or may not be able to trigger the bomb and/or shoot them, and watch the bomb that is being diffused/disposed. The editor deserves a lot of credit for constructing the scene from who knows how many feet of film, but Bigelow is able to have scene upon scene like this work and maintain the overall narrative. Michael Bay wishes he could direct an action film on this level.

Jeremy Renner is totally deserving of an Oscar nod. He'll probably get one. You can see the wheels turning in his head under pressure while dealing with these bombs. His character is slightly crazy, but he made sense after a while. Yet he's still more gung-ho than some of his counterparts. Anthony Mackie is totally deserving of a supporting actor nod. I'd like to see him get it because while all three main characters work in concert, it doesn't make sense to just highlight Renner. Mackie's Sanborn contrasts Renner's James. Yin and yang. The push and pull of the movie doesn't work without either of them.

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