Director: Kathyrn Bigelow
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes
Storyline: Every time a bomb disposal expert sets out to diffuse a bomb or IED, he’s setting foot on explosive territory.
Bottomline: A tense, edge-of-the-seat, riveting thriller.
A long time ago, in a galaxy not far, far away, Annie Hall beat Star Wars. And movie geeks made their peace with the fact that the most celebrated epic they grew up with only lost to one of Woody Allen’s best films.
This generation of geeks will find no such peace. The film that snubbed the spectacular Avatar is no timeless classic.
Don’t get me wrong. The Hurt Locker is not a bad film at all. In fact, it’s a tense, explosive, adrenaline-rush of thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat, with your heart in your mouth and your pulse racing. But that’s about it.
It’s one of those movies the boys would love to watch over beer and forget all about the next day – a Die Hard film minus the charisma of John McLane or his trademark Yippie Ka Yay quips and yes, shot with a hand-held camera to make you believe it’s a realistic documentary that takes you right to the middle of action in Iraq.
While the hand-held feel does help in making war seem real, the general lack of detail, shallow characterisation and stereotyping of the faceless enemy reduce this war film to a video game with multiple levels of danger.
Every few minutes, a bomb disposal expert walks towards danger to diffuse an unknown quantity of explosives with suspicious looking Iraqis keeping an eye. How can this not be gripping? The Hurt Locker caters to that basic voyeuristic human instinct of watching a living thing have a near-death experience. An amateur film student can achieve the same effect by filming chicken at the coop as the butcher sharpens the knife to make a hard-hitting statement about vegetarianism.
Remember how No Man’s Land got us hooked with by making a soldier lie on a landmine or how Turtles Can Fly achieved the same result by having children run around mine-infested fields? The Hurt Locker treads exactly the same territory.
There’s something inherently and literally explosive about bombs and, specifically, mines in films. An Improvised Explosive Device, by nature, being one of those things that adds an element of unpredictability to the impending danger, makes for riveting viewing, especially if you are able to create an illusion of reality. This is Kathryn’s biggest triumph though it is shamelessly manipulative and devoid of balance.
The Hurt Locker, though apolitical, is a one-sided account of a bunch of soldiers who are put into such extreme conditions that they become addicted to a life of impending death. It offers no depth or exploration into the psyche of the human fighting machines as the leading man philosophically explains that there’s just one way to do the job. “The way you don’t die.”
The film tells you absolutely nothing you don’t know within the first 10 minutes when a bomb disposal expert gets blown off and another is sent to replace him. Yes, Iraq is a dangerous place and they could die any moment and even the bravest of men could breakdown in these conditions. Tell us something we already don’t know.
If you want to go deeper into the complex mindscape of the soldier battered by the trauma of war, watch The Messenger. The Hurt Locker is pure, unadulterated, raw, war-film action that does absolutely no harm to your brain-cells simply because its agenda is to only make you wonder if the poor bloke walking towards his death will have his brains blown off or not.
I see some rather unnecessary hatin on the movie. Sure, it’s not a gut-wrenching war drama a la Private Ryan that makes you wonder about the futility of war, but I felt that the narration was still gripping, and made a point or two. Especially, I kinda like the ending – as you grow up, you end up liking only one or two things – as it happens, it’s war/defusing bombs in the protagonist’s case. Perhaps more so than family. It’s not a feel-good ending, but still the reality. I’ve seen plenty of people like that. And I don’t think it’s “tense, edge-of-seat” stuff. The pace of the movie was very relaxed, if you ask me.
It may not be a ‘timeless classic’, but as an action movie that also cares for the characters in a way most action movies don’t, it worked for me. I personally think ‘Inglorious Basterds’ was the best picture of 2009.
As for your question: ‘How can this not be gripping?’, watch Transformers 2.
The movie was a terible one. Slept half way through!