The Hurt Locker (2008) 4/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 75.8
Genre: War, Drama
Duration: 131 mins
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty

Kathryn Bigelow had already proven her action chops with the brilliant Point Break so she was always a good candidate to direct a film about a bomb disposal unit in Iraq. However, in The Hurt Locker she and writer Mark Boal take a more pensive approach and focus on the mental battlefield that the soldiers fight internally. Think The Thin Red Line without all the monologues or broad sweeping references to nature and you’ve got the idea. For the most part, it works thanks to the compelling performance of Jeremy Renner as the ace explosives disarmer who is addicted to the rush he gets from his job. The film follows him and the two other men of his unit, the equally excellent Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, as they are called to disarm a variety of devices. However, the unnecessary danger that he puts himself and those around him in strains relations between him and his men resulting in a few close calls, both professional and personal.

Bigelow effectively contrasts the lulls and boredom of downtime with the fear and tension of battle and her handling of the latter scenes is especially fantastic. One scene in particular where Renner and Mackie’s characters coordinate their efforts against a sniper threat under a baking hot desert sun works beautifully. However, despite the plaudits this film received, there are problems. Boal based this film on a series of Vanity Fair articles and unfortunately he never really stepped back far enough from that source material to tie them together into a single story driven by a discernible plot. As such, the story comes across as a fascinating collection of anecdotes. Furthermore, their attempt to engender the proceedings with a sense of purpose towards the end comes off as rather clumsy with Renner’s character inexplicably getting involved in a couple of incidents that ultimately bear no consequence to the rest of the sequences. That said, because the individual sequences are such a treat to watch and the acting is universally first class, The Hurt Locker remains a richly entertaining experience.

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