The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)

It might be the most repetitive story structure I’ve ever seen. Bomb squad does its thing, then tries to pass the time and wax mournful about the war, then goes out and does its thing again.  And again, and again. And yet, if nearly any other movie tried to have as many attention-grabbing setpieces as this film had, it’d fall apart in a sea of starts and stops. But the setpieces in this film are so masterful, so suspenseful, filmed and depicted so perfectly, and are each so much more riveting than the one before that the most repetitive story structure I’ve ever seen becomes one of the most gripping I’ve ever seen. That, and the performances of both Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie are so fantastic (if the two of them are not among what should be The Hurt Locker’s slew of Oscar nominations, something’s really, really rotten in the state of AAMPAS), especially in the heat of the job when they’re dead-set on doing what’s gotta get done despite Renner’s sometimes-tiring bravado, that even their obligatory war movie who-do-you-got-waiting-for-you-back-home talky moments are great and feel real for once (Mackie talking about how he wants a son, in particular, really, really got to me). Moments like that show you that the film is critical of the dehumanizing effects of war, but it never hits you over the head with neither anti-war nor pro-military sentiments (after risking life and limb to diffuse bombs in the most dangerous situations conceivable, Renner’s Sergeant James is finally defeated by…**spoiler** the cereal aisle. Whether you want to look at that as an argument for the importance of the military life, or a sad and poignant commentary on the tragedy that is veterans’ inability to readjust to civilian life, is entirely up to you, and a testament to the film’s ability to be appropriately vague in that regard **end spoiler**). It’s just is what it is: Bravo Company putting themselves smack-dab in the middle of hostile territory while one of ’em wears a bear suit and is one wire-snip away from blowing up an entire town square. Same shit, different day.


5 comments so far

  1. mrsemmapeel on

    Great mooovie.

  2. Simon M. on

    yup. and I think it’s made even better because the main characters, the three members of Bravo Company, don’t fall into war film character stereotypes that run rampant in just about every other war film of the Saving Private Ryan ilk (although Brian Geraghty’s Sgt. Eldridge comes closest to cliche-dom, the “in-over-his-head one”). Because of that, even though James and Sanborn are unequivocally the film’s most important characters and are integral to the story, you feel that even THEY can get all asploded at any time. Nobody’s safe, and that’s made very clear when you consider how the only two big-time actors in this film are killed no more than 5 minutes after you first see them.

  3. Allison Almodovar on

    Suspenseful, are you kidding???

  4. Simon M. on

    yes. it’s all one big joke, allison. give yourself a pat on the back.

  5. Michael Corleone on

    I was suprised from the movie cos I think that this talented woman director had her hit with “Near Dark”.
    Without many words the best film about the condition in Iraq.

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