Tipped be the main challenger for Avatar during the awards season, The Hurt Locker is a very different kettle of fish.
The movie follows the exploits of a three man bomb disposal squad in Iraq: In particular, the arrival and impact of a new Team Leader in the form of William James (played by Jeremy Renner – who looks like Eminem’s evil twin).
James replaces the previous leader, played in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Guy Pearce, who was killed in action. Naturally, he is different to his predecessor and this will take some adjustment from the other men – particularly when one of James’s main differences is an inclination to ignore protocol and get the unit into more and more dangerous situations.
As would be expected, the characters must have some journey of self discovery to go on, but this is handled with a subtlety and realism that enables it to avoid cliché.
The movie, excellently directed by Kathryn Bigelow, carries a documentary feel and the look, feel and sound of the locations provides a real insight into how things must be in Iraq. You can almost feel the stifling heat and the atmosphere of living on the edge, when any person on the street could be an insurgent.
The movie unfolds in an episodic way, which captures the nature of the unit having to go out day after day where no day will be the same as the last. Each episode provides a different aspect to the movie and its characters’ development. This lifts the film beyond a usual action followed by consequence format that can seem so contrived.
Bigelow ups the tension levels to edge of the seat stuff. Probably still best known for the excellent Point Break – even more excellent given the talents (or lack of) of the 3 main stars, Bigelow has stepped up a level here. Apparently, the film’s production rivals that of Apocalypse Now for length of film shot, but it retains an intimate portrait rather than an epic landscape of a movie.
Bigelow has also managed to get some excellent cameo appearances: The aforementioned Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes and David Morse. None of which seem to be mugging up to the camera in a “look who it is!” cameo performance. In fact, they could almost go unspotted as cameo appearances.
There is also excellent use made of a “back home” segment of the movie that creates a surreal feeling about being back home. In affect, we are so used to Iraq that to be “back home” is weird. This left me wondering how the three man squad would have coped individually when they did return home.
The movie left me wanting to know more and I felt like I didn’t want it to end.
My rating: 4/5