Starring, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pierce, David Morse, and Evangeline Lilly
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Written by: Mark Boal
Released: Maple Pictures (2009)
Genre: War; Drama
When movie award season started at the end of 2009, The Hurt Locker was on a lot of people's minds as a contender for Outstanding Motion Picture at the Oscars. Unfortunately, rather than debate the content of the picture and the story it had to tell, entertainment media built the annoying narrative of "Kathryn Bigelow versus James Cameron: Battle of the Exes." I found it sad, yet unsurprising. Although, I may be biased due to still thinking District 9 should have won.
William James (Jeremy Renner) is a soldier and specialist at diffusing bombs, which sends him right into the heat of battle in Iraq circa 2004 to go about the task of neutralizing the ceaseless threat of IEDs. He's a replacement for another specialist (Guy Pearce) who unceremoniously dies in the opening scene of the film, as his brothers in arms, Sandborn (Anthony Mackie) and Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), are left to silently grieve and carry on with their mission.
While I expected a bit more of a plot driven film, like so many other war films I've seen over the years, Bigelow's efforts are more a character study. Sergeant James is a bit of an enigma to Sandborn and Eldridge, as well as the audience, as he is a bit of a cowboy on the field of battle. His unorthodox methods that border on a deathwish immediately build tension with his teammates, as they trek from one roadside bomb to the next on the remainder of their mission. With about a month left in their rotation before due to go on leave, Sanborn and Eldridge can't help but wonder if James might wind up getting them all killed before then.
While I have heard a lot of people declare The Hurt Locker one of the most unapologetically accurate portrayals of war from a soldier's perspective, I've also heard that many soldiers found the movie utterly laughable with how the events were represented on film. I'm not a soldier--I don't even like getting in snowball fights--so I can only look at this film as a movie fan. The action and emotions through the first certainly felt genuine to me. And the tragic realization that Sergeant James is a doomed character, forever changed in some indescribable way that prevents him from feeling at home anywhere other than on the battlefield, is the main thread that makes this movie so damned engrossing.
If the only thing you take away from this movie is that it is the reason a woman won an Oscar for directing for the first time in history, then chances are you haven't seen the film. It's a very good piece of film making, and even though I still think District 9 got robbed, I have to admit that The Hurt Locker definitely deserved to be in contention regardless of whatever fancy narrative Hollywood cooked up for it.