DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow
CAST: Jeremy Renner,Anthony Mackie,Brian Geraghty,Ralph Fiennes
When you see the ground lift under the impact of an explosion early on in The Hurt Locker,you know this years best film Oscar winner isnt yet another war movie. There have been films depicting the brutality of a war,particularly a war with no known boundaries,but The Hurt Locker lays out the sheer presence,even the mundane everyday-ness of it. Heres a place where a bag on the street,a single wire leading into a garbage pile,a sagging car suspension,a fluttering curtain,a handheld camera, even a sudden flock of sheep could all mean instant and mass death.
In this situation works the bomb-disposal team of Sergeant James (Renner),Sergeant Sanborn (Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Geraghty). While the latter two just hope to make it out safe,James changes the equations by taking on the bombs . His record is more than 800 bombs defused,and counting. Sanborn and Eldridge can only watch in reluctant respect as he walks into situations with his protective suit off,or cuts off communication during an operation. The film covers these operations through to the end,capturing the threat that hangs in the air every time James dons a suit and the other two step out on an unguarded street to keep him safe.
In one of the films most moving sequences,James is shattered when he thinks a boy he has grown fond of has been cut up and sewn back as a human bomb. He puts detonators to blow up the body,then removes them,and cuts through the skin to lift the bomb with bare hands.
What isnt clear at times is where director Bigelow and writer Mark Boal are going with James. Boal writes him as a part cowboy in uniform,foolhardy enough to lead a team of three into unknown enemy neighbourhood at night,discarding the backup. At other times too,he ignores basic operating procedures about keeping his men safe,a stark note in a film that strives for authenticity to the extent of shooting it on handheld cameras. The other problem is the broad strokes in which the film paints Iraqis. They come out as either downright bad or suspicious men. They turn children into human bombs or strap up an unwilling family man as a suicide bomber. Mostly,they are just faces looking down from balconies,or from behind curtains.