Friday, July 31, 2009

The Hurt Locker

Unlike any other war movie I've ever seen. I think Roger Ebert puts it very well when he suggests that while we look for explosions in other standard war movies, The Hurt Locker (directed by Kathryn Bigelow) is atypical in the sense that we absolutely hope "none will happen." Anyway, one fuck of an amazing film. I'll slightly hesitate to call it generational or one of the greatest films I've ever seen for the time being, but there is no doubt that at the very least, this is the best thing I've seen this year. For sure, The Hurt Locker wont fade from my memory for a long long time.

In case you aren't familiar with the plot, it revolves around the exploits of a team consisting of a bomb tech and his two man support group. Staff Sergeant James, the bomb tech, is the prime protagonist, though the two supporting characters, Sergeant Sanborn and Specialist Eldridge receive so much coverage that they don't even seem like mere "support." By the end of the film, one of the primary reasons while each bomb confrontation is so tense and suspenseful is because you actually give a damn about those three characters. From the first five minutes of the film, it is made clear that any character is fair game to be killed. And throughout the movie, whether by a spontaneous IED detonation, or a shot from an invisible sniper, this notion is reinforced so that viewers remain stressed and paranoid throughout the two and a half hour long run time. Additionally, the editing and camerawork does a masterful job in helping keep viewers on their toes.

Direction, writing, and acting are fantastic. There's an unfocused, confused, something-about-nothing feel around the characters' words, dialog, and actions that make things really emotionally realistic. You can't describe many of the characters, even the minor Iraqi ones, with only one word. There are people who complain that this randomness and disorganization is messy, but in my mind, its this "messiness" that make these characters relatable to actual people.

Unfortunately, there is one significant blemish marring this film. For how realistic it is usually, there are transgressions at times that will leave even those of us without any exposure to the military and combat whatsoever dumbfounded. In one particular scene, one sniping soldier manages to miss all of his stationary targets, only to finally hit a moving target without a sweat. The insurgents apparently can snipe with AKs without a scope. Ranks and orders are apparently easily disregarded with little consequence. In some situations, soldiers would have obviously shot instead of standing by. However, I suppose some liberties had to be taken for the cause of dramatic license, and for something funded solely by Kathryn Bigelow and a partner, realism could not always be afforded, as it comes at a premium.

Anyway, the The Hurt Locker (as well as the fact that the director is a woman, props props props to Bigelow) surprised the hell out of me. I had no clue that this was going to be one of those movies from which I would come out a slightly different person. If it's playing in your area, definitely watch this thing.


  1. Saw this one recently myself. Easily the best Iraq War dramatization yet, and I also consider it the finest film I've seen so far this year. It really is indeed a great exploration of the effects war can have on a soldier, and a mighty intense one at that. I may very well see it again this weekend.

    Hopefully The Hurt Locker will be remembered come awards season. If nothing else, I'd like to see Bigelow become the first woman to receive the Academy Award for Achievement in Directing. She certainly deserves it.

  2. woman has ever won it...thanks for that tidbit. Somehow, I never thought of that before. I too hope that she wins then, not just because I like to see barriers broken, but because The Hurt Locker is plainly the best damn thing to come out so far this year.

    BTW, random question, does HTML work for comments too?

  3. I find two things very hard to believe here.
    A. That anything on the Iraq war is going to be better than Generation Kill.
    B. That anything done by the director of Strange Days and Blue Steel, two of the worst fucking things I've ever seen, can possibly be worth a god damn. I mean, Point Break was okay, but everything else she's done is abominable.

  4. I have never seen those other movies, but I will take your word for it that they were crap. However, she may have gotten lucky with this one, a good fluke amongst a barrel of crap. Even the most mediocre director may strike some gold once in a blue moon. Other reasons for encouragement include the fact that the writer is one that she has never really worked with before. Additionally, though reviews mean little to individual tastes, the fact that this film is far more critically acclaimed than her previous works should be somewhat of an encouragement. Anyway, going to a matinee showing of this can't be too bad of a gamble.

    Regarding Generation Kill, I've only seen the first couple of episodes, so I can't give much of an assessment on it, but I think it depicts a fundamentally different war. In my mind, the Iraqi war is divided into two phases. There's the short conventional war, and then the Insurgency. Generation Kill concerns itself with the conventional war and ends before the Insurgency really kicks into gear. Meanwhile, The Hurt Locker is first and foremost a snapshot of the Insurgency. Also, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that The Hurt Locker is less a war movie than a character study. At least in my opinion, not too much overlap between Generation Kill and The Hurt Locker .

  5. I think the point of Generation Kill is that the conventional war was a lie, or at least a farce.
    There's certainly room for other approaches.