Created on Tuesday, 27 October 2009 15:17
Written by Elaine
The Hurt Locker is an action movie directed by veteran director Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days) that reflects the reality of present day military conflict as in the 2004 Iraq war. It is written by Mark Boal who, as a Rolling Stone journalist, followed an US bomb disposal squad in Baghdad, and focuses on elite bomb disposal team Delta and the dangers of their jobs.
Visually, the movie delivers what was expected of it right at the beginning - a well-delivered and captured bomb blast that takes note of both micro and macro details - clouds of dust and dirt rising along with the pressure waves and accompanied a sound design set so well done that makes the best out of Dolby surround sound. And with that first blast, follows the demise of team Delta's original tech head.
Enters replacement Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner), a tough, fearless soldier but to the point of recklessness. In one of the missions, he removes his protective suit saying "If I am gonna die, I want to die comfortable" and discards his headset a moment later. He incurs the wrath of Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) on his team, a sufficiently brave man but who adheres to the rules strictly in the hope of surviving his rotation in one piece. On the other hand, the last man in the three-man team, Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), is a bundle of nerves and ashamed of his apparent lack of courage.
Interestingly directed by a female director in a war film almost entirely focused on male soldiers, Bigelow does a great job. She clearly illustrates their emotions and sensibilities. At a chilling point of the movie, Sanborn and Eldrige - pushed to irrationality by James's recklessness - contemplate killing James in an "accident". However, they grew to admire and respect his idiosyncratic ways later. In another scene Bigelow shows the human side of James as he shares the stories of his possessions - a dysfunctional marriage and the bomb remnants of what could have taken his life.
All big questions, political or not, that arises in war movies, get chunked aside by the bombs. The intense fear of death keeps the audience locked in. Scenes after scenes of intense action shot with shaky handheld camera from the characters' point of view makes the audience feel as if they were there as well. Foreboding dangers sprinkled with lurking, suspicious characters heighten tensions and relates the soldiers' fear of the unknown. After all, their time may end in the next 10 seconds by a random guy with a cell phone. Worse, they may be attacked by insurgents out of nowhere in the desert.
Hence, for most men, war is a dread. But for James, it is an addictive drug. Here, the movie comes to an ending that gives one some food for thought. James, a keen soldier, was unable to adapt back to civilian life as depicted in his silent frustration of a "normal", peaceful life in the supermarket back home. In one of the last scenes, he returns to the war field, ending the movie right at its beginning where a quote from author Chris Hedges's book, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, was briefly screened: that "War is a drug."
Audiences may leave the cinema temporarily deaf and drained from the adrenaline but nonetheless are likely to be appreciative of the cinematographic beauty of this war film.