movie film review | chris tookey

Hurt Locker

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  Hurt Locker Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
8.64 /10
Staff Sgt. William James Jeremy Renner , Sgt. J. T. Sanborn Anthony Mackie
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Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Written by: Mark Boal

Released: 2009
Genre: WAR
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 123

A classic war movie.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Kathryn Bigelow’s thriller about bomb disposal is not only the best movie about the war in Iraq; it’s one of the most revealing films ever about war in general.

Like all Ms Bigelow’s movies, it’s obsessed with manliness and machismo – but in a much more serious, searching way than anything she’s done before. Her anti-hero is a gung-ho sergeant (Jeremy Renner, pictured) who feels alive only when defusing bombs.

The trouble is that he’s so reckless, he endangers the lives of the two other members of his team (Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty).

Ms Bigelow has always been clever at creating suspense, and several sequences – especially a scene of sniper attack - rank among the most gruelling ever committed to celluloid.

Journalist and screenwriter Mark Boai spent weeks embedded with a US army bomb squad, and everything about the movie feels real. It’s the nearest thing to serving in Iraq, and a heck of a lot safer.

The movie wowed American critics but failed to attract much of an audience at the box office. This could be because the film has no stars. The only well-known actors – Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes and David Morse, all excellent in brief appearances - are swiftly blown up, shot or moved on. But that’s deliberate, and adds greatly to audience involvement.

Because there’s no Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis or Brad Pitt involved, we can’t be certain which, if any, of the three leading characters will survive. There’s a real feeling of life and death at stake.

Some of the story-telling feels confused – especially in two night sequences late on, where the leading character is bent on vengeance and explores a nightmarish world where he is more dangerously exposed than ever. At first I thought these descents into chaos were a mistake, until I realised that emotionally and intellectually both scenes fulfil a purpose.

They make us experience the sergeant’s emotional turmoil by proxy, as the lighting and camerawork, previously neat and documentary-style, turn jagged and expressionistic. We discover for ourselves just how narrow the line is between heroism and foolishness, courage and madness. It has the same feeling of nervous breakdown as the most memorable parts of Apocalypse Now.

The Hurt Locker is not a political movie. It’s uninterested in why US forces are in Iraq, or in pointing a finger of blame. It’s primarily interested in making us understand why men volunteer to do something this dangerous. The truths it reveals are equally applicable to Afghanistan in the 21st century, or the Thirty Years War in the 17th.

The most quietly insightful scenes come when we see the leading character clearing leaves out of a gutter at home, and standing in a supermarket, bemused by the number of choices in front of him. Here, he feels weak and unimportant – something he never experienced in action.

He simply feels more of a man when he’s doing something useful.

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