**********This review may contain minor spoilers**********
I’ve seen “The Hurt Locker” three times. On the first encounter I didn’t think too highly of this movie. The next two visits were much more amiable.
The movie follows the missions of a bomb disposal squad from Camp Victory stationed in war-ridden Iraq. The team has just lost their tech and team leader Staff Sergeant Thompson while disposing an improvised explosive device (IED). Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) who is a kind of an adrenaline junkie arrives to replace him.
Each of the three main characters in the movie is defined by half an hour in way that we are able to make complete sense of their actions that follows. Even later new dimensions are added to the characters. What we see here is the pinnacle of character study .In a way each of the character is vulnerable, but at different levels. James is the leader who suits up to disarm the IEDs. His team members Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) communicate to him by a radio and cover him from snipers and detonators. So, their first mission arrives when they get a tip-off from a trusted informant. James despite the warnings from his team suits up before sending a bot to examine the situation and then kills their visibility by using a smoke bomb. This obviously shows that James thinks that he himself can prevent the snipers aiming at him without the teams help or maybe he’s just getting a kick out of it. By now we know that James gets a high from doing what he does. That, he says, is the only thing he loves. James is the least vulnerable of the characters. James regrets being responsible for Eldridge’s injury but only after taking risks which puts his and teams lives in danger.He regrets his actions only when he is alone and doesn’t even show a hint of it when he has company.
Eldridge blames himself for the death of Thompson. He has sessions with Colonel John Cambridge. In one of the most rewarding scenes of the movie he talks about how one bullet from his gun could have saved Thompson. He is mostly cynical about his prospects in Iraq and constantly talks of dying in the line of duty.
Sanborn is visibly upset about losing Thompson. Even, James doesn’t help him to accept a new leader. He wants to leave Iraq, but doesn’t show it much until his final mission where with James he tries to save a man strapped with C4. This near death experience shakes him and what follows is a truly touching scene where he tells James that he wants to have a “boy”.
The acting is uniformly great. Jeremy Renner adds depth to his unique character. Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty support him well. What’s great is unknown actors play the leads and the known actors are given cameo roles. Both, Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes are good in their brief roles.
The layered script provides conversations that ring true and pack emotional wallop which I seemed to miss the fist time. What I also missed were some intelligent and hilarious conversations especially the “wild one” conversation between James and his superior. The script doesn’t take sides. The Hurt locker is neither anti-war nor pro-war which makes it rather unique. This is not your conventional Hollywood war movie with long patriotic speeches.
It’s Kathryn Bigelow’s touch that pushes the movie towards greatness and then some more. She is the first woman to win an Oscar for direction and completely deserves it.
The shaky camerawork adds tension to the action scenes. But once or twice it gets distracting even when it’s executed brilliantly. This is especially seen when camera focuses on the cat, which almost seems pointless. There is also a scene where the camera constantly cuts between James running and a man carrying meat. There may be symbolic significance to these scenes, but I don’t think so. Even with these distractions the action scenes have impeccable attention to detail which is what makes them work. But, these are small shortcomings (about 20 seconds in a 131 minutes film).
“The Hurt Locker” is definitely one of the defining and best films of 2009.
This is my first review. So, pardon me if there are any mistakes. Point them out to me and I’ll try to improve.