The Hurt Locker Review: Soldier, Soldier

The Hurt Locker: On General Release Friday 28th August 2009

War, huh, yeah! What is it good for?

Making bloody good films, as it turns out.

Director Kathryn Bigelow returns to form with this absolutely rockin’, docu-style fiction film set in Baghdad.

It follows the exploits of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit AKA a bomb squad. When the team lose their leader (in the most impressively shot explosion I’ve ever seen) they get a new chief who’s more than a little bit of a loose cannon.

This isn’t your typical modern war movie. There’s no Bush bashing and no in depth discussion as to the moral and ethical implications. And we’re grateful; Kathryn Bigelow keeps the political chatter to a minimum and concentrates on a moment-to-moment type of tension.

There’s no plot so much as there is a situation.

It simply follows the squad as they do their job as there’s no overall mission and no unnecessary plotlines. It’s just soldiers out in the field, getting it done. The only thing the characters have to do, the only goal they have to reach is to finish their time in the unit alive, and handily a countdown appears every so often to remind us how they’re doing.

I may be of the female variety but this film made me feel like a dude, in a good way. It’s kind of like Top Gun but without the homosexual undertones. Everything about it is masculine; it’s tough, physical and sweaty. It’s catching bad guys, shooting stuff and bombs going off.

But you’ll never feel excluded in this boys club; Bigelow directs it in such a way as to make the audience part of the action. The way the cameras move feels reactionary to bullets flying right by you and the baking sun slowly cooking you.

The difference between this movie and other war movies is that it’s shot like a documentary and done so well that, at some points, you forget that it’s not real. Something emphasized by the relatively unknown cast. Jeremy Renner leads the pack as the renegade replacement, Sergeant James. You might remember him from 28 Weeks Later but that’s about it. The by-the-book officer, Sanborn, is played by Anthony Mackie and the troubled Eldridge is played by Brian Geraghty.

This film could be a star-maker. The leads are very engaging but Renner naturally shines as dangerous but dedicated officer, whose maverick tendencies are unorthodox but effective.

The film’s biggest but possibly only problem is when a big star makes a cameo. All you do in your head is say, ‘Hey it’s that guy!’ and it takes you out of the movie. Guy Pierce, Ralph Fiennes and Lost’s Evangeline Lily all make cameos and just give the cast list a little boost, but the unknowns can handle the movie without them.

The characters may be tough and macho but the writing allows them brief moments of emotion and genuine fear. These fleeting moments make for a nice reprieve because 90% of the film is so tense, when you stand up to leave you’ll take your seat with you.

The humour leans a little towards the gallows but it’s satisfying to think that even in the so-called ‘Kill Zone’ that these guys can still crack a joke. When there’s no joke, however, we’re treated some fairly horrific violence. You may even shed a tear because it’s not the acts themselves that are hard to watch, it’s the victims that we get to see close up.

The explosions that very nearly wipe out the entire cast on a regular basis, are stunning. In the first ten minutes there is a truly beautiful shot of a lethal bomb going off with disastrous consequences. Bigelow also somehow keeps the sandy terrain fresh to look at though after a while you’ll begin to sweat as much as the characters

Exciting, tense and tough.


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