Monday, January 25, 2010

The Hurt Locker (2009)

Title: The Hurt Locker (2009)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pierce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse

The Hurt Locker is the movie with all the Oscar Buzz this year (2010) and if you ask this Film Connoisseur, it actually deserves it. In my opinion, sometimes the Oscars make this big deal about a certain movie, and when you actually get down to seeing it you end up asking yourself if that was in deed the best movie that the American film industry had to offer that year. Some nominations make you think that maybe the people in charge don’t really care much about good cinema. Sometimes it feels like they are just looking for the cutest film that they can market and make money with. Juno and Sunshine Millionaire come to mind. Not that they are bad films. But damn it, did they really deserve all that buzz and attention? This years Oscar nominations have not been announced yet, but if the attention that this film is getting is any indication of what we can expect at the Oscars, then The Hurt Locker is going to be THE movie to win awards next Oscar night. The film has already won many other respected awards across the world. The critics seem to love it and recommend it. So what’s the big deal with The Hurt Locker? Is it really as good a film as it’s being hyped up to be?

The Hurt Locker follows a group of soldiers in Bagdad who belong to a bomb disarming unit. Basically, the story develops right smack in the middle of the invasion of Iraq. United States has forcibly occupied the nation, they have invaded it by force. The people from Iraq are not happy with this so they organize terrorist attacks, by planting bombs in cars and buildings and even in the middle of the street. This is their attempt at somehow thwarting the United States ever growing control over their country. So in comes this small military unit in charge of dismantling these bombs. It’s a tough job but somebody has got to do it. What kind of toll will this war take on the psyche of these young men?

The reasons for all the hoopla are simple; this is a very well directed, acted, edited film. There are a couple of things that make it a special production though. Number one, the film was filmed in Jordan. Bigelow and crew flew themselves to East Asia and shot this film right there, in the eye of the storm as they say. Filming a movie this way, under a difficult political climate is not something new. It was done before in 2004 for a film called Turtles Can Fly from director Bahman Gohbadi; a very touching film that talks about the U.S. invasion of Iraq but from the perspective of the children who live there. Children who earn their money picking up live mines and re-selling them on the black market. It’s a very sad film, I highly recommend it if you enjoyed The Hurt Locker. But just because its been done before doesnt mean that filming The Hurt Locker was any less challenging for Bigelow and crew. Shooting a movie this way is a gargantuan task. To pull off such a good movie under those circumstances makes the film a great achievement in my book.

Kathryn Bigelow is known for making ‘macho’ films, even though she her self is not a macho. She’s a woman, which is really what makes her films stand out. It’s what has always set her apart from other female directors, who tend to focus on less action oriented films. And her films aren’t just action films, they are guy films. Main characters are guys being tough, robbing banks, jumping off airplanes and now, going to war. Bigelow put all her filmmaking experience on to this film. One look at it and you know there’s an experienced director behind the camera, the shots, the angles, the style. The documentary style is of course a great choice because it gives it all a news reel footage feel which we commonly associate with war images. Plus it puts us in on the action. But the handheld isn’t abused on this film. It’s a controlled thing, similar to what we saw in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler (2008) where most of the film was filmed documentary style, but keeping camera movement under control. Loved that about The Hurt Locker.

The thing about The Hurt Locker is that it’s a great war film. It shows us not only the horrors of war, but it also shows us how the soldiers who go to war are affected by it on a personal and psychological level. These guys see death and dismemberment on a day to day basis, for real. These guys are shooting and killing and getting killed for real. Literally, your next breath might be your last. It’s hard to keep a sane mind under those circumstances and I loved how the movie addresses this from various angles. From the angle of the level headed soldier, doing his job, to the crazy loose cannon who’s all about doing things the reckless way. We also get to see things through the eyes of the one soldier who cant take the horrors of war and looses it. This movie is concerned with letting us know how these guys are transformed by the experience of war. They are never the same. I felt echoes of Stallone’s First Blood; where the man turned into a killing machine can no longer survive in a ‘normal society’. War calls him, like a drug. These soldiers are never the same when they come back. They are fractured souls and minds.

Other things I liked about the movie? Loved those moments when they are going to disarm a bomb. Lots of tension on this moments, especially when the people of Iraq are watching from their homes as these crazy American soldiers are disarming bombs in the middle of their streets. Bigelow directs the suspense with great precision. I liked that every now and then through out the film we get great little cameos that make the film better. Like Guy Pierce, Ralph Fiennes and David Morse. Kathryn Bigelow’s movies have always had a good soundtrack, always rock and rollish, and this one is no exception.

Performance wise, the movie wins as well. Jeremy Renner is getting all the buzz for possible Oscar nomination. He does a cold as stone soldier, living on the brink, with a devil may care attitude about him. Anthony Mackie out does himself as well, as the more level headed soldier, following the rules and the protocols, he hides his emotions, but at one point in the film he completely lets them out and it’s a great moment.

This is an all around excellent movie. Good production from all angles, made all the more special because of the circumstances and localizations in which they chose to shoot the film. One of Bigelow’s best. I hope she will continue making movies, and I hope she wins the Oscar for best director. Let’s face it; the best director award has NEVER been given to a woman! That has to do with the fact that not many women direct films, which is also wrong in my book. But I still find it surprising that only three woman have been nominated for this award, and it surprises me even more that not one of them has won it. I think The Hurt Locker is a film that the academy cannot ignore, and Bigelow’s direction is hard to miss as well. Here’s something interesting to think about: if Bigelow is nominated for best director for The Hurt Locker, and James Cameron gets nominated for best director for Avatar, then these two ex love birds will be fighting for the prestigious award. It will be interesting to see if she gets the nomination, and more interesting to see her beat Cameron to it. I loved Avatar, but between you and me, I’m rooting for Bigelow! After all, she was directing a tough film in the real world, sweating bullets underneath the dessert sun! Putting her life in peril behind the camera in a real location, not safely seating behind a computer monitor.

Rating: 5 out of 5

You go Kathryn, we're all rooting for ya!


jeremythecritic said...

I liked it a lot. Probably not as much as you, but it's hard to find fault with any of it. Renner's performance is great. Not usually a fan of this genre, but there's no question it's the best film made about the topic in ages. I like that it showed us what happens instead of taking some kind of political stance.
Great review!

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks Jeremy, its like you say, its hard to find anything wrong with this one, maybe because there is nothing wrong with it?

I also like the fact that it took no political stance, which is something hard to do when making a film like this one.

I liked that scene where the guy says "Be all you can be!, but what if all I can be is dead?"


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