Rated R for war violence and language, 131 minutes
Explosive "Hurt Locker" commands your attention
If you like war and combat movies, then "The Hurt Locker" is for you. It's explosive, superbly directed and acted and will engage your senses for 2 hours, balancing a pertinent storyline with some forceful, very intense action scenes. "The Hurt Locker," skillfully directed by Kathryn Bigelow, features a largely unknown cast but is one of the best movies you'll see this year and should be remembered come awards time.
"The Hurt Locker" is concerns a group of elite US soldiers in Iraq who have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world: disarming bombs in the heat of combat. When a new sergeant, James (Jeremy Renner), takes over a highly trained bomb disposal team during violent conflict, he unexpectedly and recklessly plunges two of his two subordinates, Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), into a dangerous, very deadly game of urban combat on the streets of Baghdad. Sargeant James feels as if he's indifferent to death. As Sanborn and Eldridge struggle to control their wild new leader as their duty winds down, the city explodes into chaos, and James' true character reveals itself in a way that will change all of them forever.
"The Hurt Locker" is a fiercely made, wholly involving and superb dramatic character study with the war in Iraq as the backdrop. It's an exciting, powerful and timely look at the war but also a superb look into three remarkably different characters. Three relatively unknown actors play the three leads, but this should catapult them all to better parts and awards consideration. Jeremy Renner (seen on the TV show "The Unusuals" this past spring) is ferociously engaging and one of the most memorable portrayals of a maniacal, renegade captain since Robert Duvall in "Apocalypse Now."
All three actors are palpable and believable and remind of the storyline in Oliver Stone's "Platoon." Both Mackie ("Notorious") and newcomer Geraghty deserve as much acclaim as Renner, with Mackie as the by-the-book-solider and Geraghty the insecure newbie. Watch for a few name actors in cameos: David Morse, Evangline Lilly, Ralph Fiennes and very briefly at the beginning, Guy Pearce. Memorable scene: James has his two underlings go at it like dogs in a wrestling match egging them on as much as possible.
As good as the actors are in "The Hurt Locker," the real star of this show is director Kathryn Bigelow, who expertly and skillfully brings to life Mark Boal's ("In the Valley of Elah") busy script. She helms the action scenes with grace and ease and balances the storyline well into the action. It helps that she used many 16mm handheld cameras to give it a documentary, realistic feel that personally brings breathlessly right into the action. "Hurt Locker" will hopefully bring better films for Bigleow, who up to now has directed the cult classics "Point Break" (yes, that one with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze) and "Strange Days."
Thankfully, "Hurt Locker" seems to stay neutral with any overt political messages, though the depressing spectacle of it all only reinforces that it's an anti-war film, which is really the point of the film. The conventional combat scenes isn't anything new for this genre, only to underscore that war is hell and extremely brutal. The only real flaw with the film is that as adeptly handled as the action is, sometimes it moves too quickly and energetically to completely understand what's going on at all times.
Intense, honest, hard to watch and sad, "The Hurt Locker," while also conventional in many ways, is a war film that shouldn't be missed.