Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Hurt Locker

The war movies I grew up on were mostly Viet Nam films along with a few World War II movies. The Iraq War seems to have spawned an entire new venue for war movies, covering everything from the PTSD experienced by returning soldiers, to politically charged documentaries. The Hurt Locker is more like the war films I enjoyed when I was younger like Platoon or Hamburger Hill. The Hurt Locker does not inject politics into the story, relying instead on heart-pumping suspense and exceptional special effects to give viewers a taste of war.

I don't want to sound sexist in saying that I was surprised to see that The Hurt Locker was directed by a woman (Kathryn Bigelow). But the fact is, I was surprised by that factor. It is not that I feel a woman is incapable of creating a war movie masterpiece, but more the testosterone-laden elements of this film seemed so incredibly fraternal. Bigelow's attention to detail throughout the film lent a superb precision to the war-time backdrop that it felt convincingly masculine. That is a testament to outstanding Direction. I tip my hat to Bigelow for creating an incredible feel in this film.

A great deal of the plausibility in The Hurt Locker can also be attributed to writer Mark Boal. Boal created a set of flawed semi-complex characters that overcome their own demons when called into action, and exorcise those demons at other times. The characters are soundly developed. The dialogue has a slight military tinge without going overboard. Bits of native language is thrown in to add further plausibility to the script. The interaction of the characters includes a range of emotions that are expertly explored without turning sappy. The plot explores the thoughts and fears of a demolish team at war, while connecting the main characters tightly with the audience. All of the characters mattered. An important element for a film of this nature. The writing was spectacular and valid.

The Hurt Locker introduces us to a bomb tech (Sgt Thompson, played by Guy Pearce) whose fears are expressed in his strange desire for a he prepares to remotely detonate an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). Sgt Thompson is soon replaced by a new bomb tech with a sharper edge (Sgt James, played by Jeremy Renner). Sgt James inherits a broken EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Team comprised of Sgt Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty). The trio have just over a month before they rotate back stateside. A lot of IED's lay in the pathway between the EOD Team and their Freedom Bird.

In the process of feeling each other out, Sanborn and Eldridge learn that their new team leader, Sgt Thompson, has a reckless abandon at times that is unsettling. Thompson takes a brash approach to his mission, which is the most dangerous of the three. Thompson is the guy that actually dismantles live bombs. His expertise is apparent, in spite of his seeming disregard for his own safety. The three experience a variety of situations that test their courage, emotional fortitude and value system. The tough breaks they brave together explains much about their personal values, strengths and weaknesses. Yet even their weaknesses fail to seem negative. It only exposes their humanity...bringing a very fleshy feel to the genre.

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