War films have always been a mixed bag. You have to find a balance between taking an issue seriously and turning it into a ‘AMERICA ( or other country), F**K YEAH!’ showcase where people are either captivated or shaking their heads especially with the wars in the Middle East still raging on.
The Hurt Locker does not fall into this trap and is quite possibly the most masculine Oscar movies to come out in a long time. Its characters are what you would expect from a war movie but are positioned in a way to make you sympathise and understand the situation these men are going through every day in a way that’s respectful and neither gives the audience an opinion of what to think.
The greatest testament of this movie is that all of this, the action sequences, the male bonding, the atmosphere and tension were put together by a woman, action and horror director Katherine Bigelow.
Don’t take that as me being sexist and not expecting a woman to be capable of such a feat, I’m more saying it as a show of how great this film is. It shows that, in the day of age of directors being expected to be certain things for certain people, one can excels at something that
The story follows an elite Army bomb squad as they have to deal with their leader Staff Seargent Thompson (played by Guy Pearce, one of the big names who come in to die) and replaced by William James (Best Actor nominee Jeremy Renner). It is not that his teammates (Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty) aren’t happy he has to be the guy who dons the suit, it’s more the case that James’ methods are rather…unorthodox to say the least. Whilst things are rocky, it quickly turns into a bonding story as well as a well thought out and seemingly accurate look into the lives of the US armed forces still in and being deployed to Iraq.
What makes this bonding story better is the dialogue. It feels realistic and well put together which combined with the cinematography and direction, it builds an atmosphere the audience can fall into and yet feel like they’re almost watching a documentary on these men. It also helps intensify the tension of the combat scenes when you are genuinly worried about the livlihoods of these characters and whether they are going to be able to come out of this situation alive or not which is very much a rarity in any war film or combat film in this day and age.
Jeremy Renner earns his Oscar nod here with a performance I myself was not sure would get pulled off. When he first came in, it seemed as though he would take the film to an almost parody like direction with his cookie cutter devil may cry attitude we see in many action films but he then turns into a well defined leader and three dimentional image of a man who lives for the sake of living and defending his family outside of his own country.
What would have concerned many was how the action scenes were put together. In a war film, you can either make it seem like as though it’s a Michael Bay film or make them suttle it drags the story along. Bigelow finds the right middle ground with dynamic action and explosions done in a way that puts you in the action and helps the logic of the story. If someone blows up wearing a sucide vest, they aren’t going to start a chain of explosions going across Baghdad so to do it that way would have been an insult to the audience. To make it how it is but still dynamic, interesting and well thought out is a testament within itself.
If there is one thing I can say against The Hurt Locker, it’s the lack of feminine play. This is a very minor criticism but it would have been nice to see how females are being affected by being near the front line even though they still cannot hold a gun and run into battle like their male counterparts. But again, this is very minor and might have felt forced compared to the drama playing around the film presently.
Katherine Bigelow has plenty of time to exceed what she has done with The Hurt Locker but at this moment, this is her defining movie and possibly the best Iraq War film made this century.
Does it deserve its place in the Big 10? An Emphatic Yes. There’s a reason this is the hot contender to win Best Picture.