Nov 2, 2009

[Movies] The Hurt Locker (2009)

The Hurt LockerI've always been a bit of a sucker for independent films - you know, the kind that try to compete in international film festivals. I'm not talking about the local indies that have a 85% chance about practically being homosexual exploitation films but more those movies not from around here that try to address subjects in interesting ways. I'm not saying I'll automatically like any movie that is featured in a film festival either, although there's a decent chance I'll at least give it a shot.

I tend to focus on the more "intellectual" stories that seem to require a lot of though and not necessarily just getting used to a highly creative mode of storytelling. There have been a good share of hit and misses for these kinds of movies since they can either be (a) amazingly thought-provoking or (b) very, very boring and quite confusing. You never really know what you're going to get, but then that's the joy of watching movies in general.

Then there are those movies whose trailers just look pretty amazing and you just KNOW that you have to go see it despite the fact that you're also pretty sure the movie is going to be heavy as heck.

The Hurt Locker is an independent film about the US Army's Bravo Company's Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit during the Iraq War. After their team leader Sergeant Matt Thompson (Guy Pearce) gets killed by a remote-detonated improvised explosive device (IED), the remaining members of the unit, Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) have to deal with getting along with their new team leader, Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner). James is highly controversial in his methods and tends to prefer scouting out the bombs personally rather than using the unit's bomb disposal robot and at times the team feels he's overly reckless and is just some sort of a thrill-seeker.

Over time we as viewers are made privy to other aspects of James and how he shows his compassion and humanity in alternative venues and ways. At the same time, we see how the three men respond to the stress of their job and the way in general in highly different ways with Eldridge showing the most difficulty in trying to cope with the war given his repeated conversations with the unit's doctor, Colonel John Cambridge (Christian Camargo). The movie has a specific time set based around the number of days the unit has left before the end of this particular rotation, but that won't necessarily provide any relief in the long run.

The movie is absolutely stressful, but in a good way. The director (Kathryn Bigelow) certainly knew how to translate the day-to-day tension that these EOD folks feel and thus truly involving the audience in the experience on an emotional level. Adding in the choice to use a shakier camera setup helped give it that realistic feel, although it does get a tad dizzying to watch movies like this on the big screen.

Plus this movie really feels like it's just showing us day after day in the lives of these men. There's no major story arc trying things together or a perceived antagonist for them to fight or outsmart in the end. It's just day after day and bomb after bomb that you end up dealing with, and thus the tension level remains very high throughout the film. This is not for the weak of heart.

Jeremy Renner was absolutely perfect for the role of Staff Sergeant James. He's able to convey both his eccentricity as a bomb disposal tech and his softer side as an actual human being as well - the key is probably the nature of his eyes, which have probably made a girl or two melt in their seats over the years. The role was definitely a difficult one to manage and one that required a significantly wide range of emotions and thus kudos to him for really pulling it off.

Plus now my partner is convinced that Renner would make a great Midnighter should an Authority movie ever be made.

I'm glad he was able to win the Hollywood Film Festival Award for Best Breakthrough Actor and was nominated for several others. If they're lucky, they might get a few Oscar nods come next year. Here's to hoping...

Watch out for the cameos in the movie - you'll be surprised to see a number of major name stars hidden in relatively smaller roles in this movie. Then again, that's pretty much par for the course for independent films like this, don't you think?

The Hurt Locker is an intelligent, intense and overall great movie that I'd recommend to anyone, regardless of their appreciation of the war movie genre. It's still in a limited run in certain QC theaters this week, so hurry up and catch it before it disappears!

The Hurt Locker gets 4 unexploded IEDs out of a possible 5.

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