Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is the best live action film of the year so far, by far. If you live anywhere near a theater that’s playing it you should get in your car NOW. Bigelow’s name should be familiar to genre fans for her classic vampire film Near Dark and her controversial but great cyberpunk blockbuster Strange Days and The Hurt Locker is her best film to date. Nearly all of Bigelow’s films blend quality film making with high entertainment value. Though fan’s attending The Hurt Locker should not expect a Hollywood shoot-em up like Point Break, it has more edge-of your seat moments than any film in recent memory.
The story concerns Bravo Company, a three man bomb squad in Iraq during the height of operations in 2004. The film treats the audience to a countdown of their days left in rotation and it adds to the overall feeling of paranoia and dread, both on-screen and being wreaked on the people in the audience. Paranoia soaks every frame of the film, and that is the main reason it should be experienced on the big screen. During the many tense bomb defusing sequences you will be combing the frame just as carefully as the characters on look out: suspicious of everything and feeling powerless to help when things go wrong.
The film is jam packed with great actors: Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, and David Morse (who steals the best scene with his “wild-man” speech), but the stand out performance comes from Jeremy Renner. Renner (who some readers may remember from 28 Weeks Later, The Assassination of Jesse James and from his incredible performance in the serial killer biopic Dahmer) really shines here and I hope that this will be the film that puts him over the edge to stardom.
Those turned off by politics and running for the hills when they hear the word “Iraq” in a film’s description will still enjoy The Hurt Locker, though I doubt anyone will come out of the film “pro-war.” Preaching is kept at absolute zero allowing the actions of the characters to speak for themselves and the situations they find themselves in feel more day-to-day than contrived. That’s the point though: day-to-day for these guys is anything but.