Monday, August 3, 2009

Review: The Hurt Locker

I would have gotten this up sooner but, let's face it, I was feeling like cold turd up until this morning (now I just feel like tired turd). This film was really spectacular. The only thing that disappointed me was that some other jerk got to my original idea for a title, "Hurt's so Good," before I did. All joking aside, if Kathryn Bigelow doesn't get an Oscar nomination for this one, the Academy is as sexist as we theorize. By the way, I caught "The Colbert Report" with Bigelow on it last week...I'd like to point out the grand dame of action movies is 58 years old...yeah, you read that right, 58 (according to IMDB, which lists her birthday as 1951) and she looks like this:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Kathryn Bigelow
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTasers

Seriously, you have to respect that. And for those who are all "hey, he just mentioned how sexist the academy is and then talked about her appearance" you're right. I suck. But come on, if I look a fraction that good at 58, I want whatever we use instead of the internet at that point to be totally a buzz with my appearance. Period. No more pissing around, here's the review:

Bigelow’s Big High
The Hurt Locker mainlines tension

Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is so relentlessly tense that it is as though she synthesized a chemical hybrid of a first date, a car accident and the Cuban Missile Crisis and attempted to inject it directly in her audience’s eyeballs. This politic-free trip alongside a bomb-disposal unit in Baghdad is a brutal buffet of action movie clichés, filtered through that pesky lens of reality. To put it plainly, The Hurt Locker is the best movie of 2009 thus far.

Jeremy Renner is Staff Sergeant William James, bomb-disposal expert and certifiably insane son-of-a-bitch. James, a veteran of conflict in Afghanistan, voluntarily joins a team composed of Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) after their last leader pursued other career opportunities in heaven. By-the-book Sanborn and perpetually frightened Eldridge soon find that bomb disposal is to James what heroin was to Sid Vicious. What follows is sequence after sequence of believably constructed unbelievable moments, punctuated not by the explosion of ordinance but by conflicts of character.

Thanks largely to Mark Boal’s deft and terse script, The Hurt Locker may one day stand as the definitive narrative Iraq War movie. Whereas most features are eager to make social statements, Boal and Bigelow instead effortlessly capture the terror of the innocuous—litter may explode, cell phones can be ignition switches and rubberneckers could be malicious evildoers. Their soldiers are apolitical, equally shown to be noble, heroic saviors and flawed, angry war addicts. The environment is equally as diverse, ranging from sparse, empty desert to choked, overflowing villages. By now, audiences are visually familiar with this space, but never before has it seemed so geographically tangible or has the danger felt so real.

What is even more remarkable is the trio of actors upon whom the film rests. Mackie and Geraghty beautifully color between the boring black-and-white of descriptors such as “straight-laced” and “sheepish.” Each has their moment to shine and supernova appropriately in the space provided.

That said, this is Renner’s announcement of presence, as he refuses to hobble on the crutches of the maverick war-hero stereotype. With wild eyes and undeniable charisma, Renner carves a portrait of the soldier as an excitement junkie, unable to make sense of things that can’t kill him. The film takes its name from the scraps of the more than 800 bombs James has disarmed that he keeps beneath his bed, as though he needs that danger close by just to sleep. In the finest scene, James stands immobilized in a grocery store stateside; a man who makes life or death decisions in the space of eye-blinks proves incapable of choosing between Lucky Charms and Cheerios. For him, war makes more sense than everyday life.

If this nuanced and thrilling film, and Bigelow in particular, go unheralded come award season, it will be an oversight of explosive proportions. If this challenging and tense film goes unseen by audiences, it will be a fate that is even more destructive.

Grade - A

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