Film Pop: The Hurt Locker

Year: 2008
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty

So for my first review of an Oscar Best Picture winner destiny has placed in my lap The Hurt Locker, Katherine Bigelow’s critically-acclaimed Iraqi War drama. The film depicts the endeavours of an elite bomb disposal unit, led by notorious loose cannon Sergeant First Class William James (Renner). He is appointed to the role following *SPOILERS* the death of the team’s original leader in the film’s opening scene. Over the course of the movie, featuring a few gunfights and a few bomb detonations, Sergeant James gradually wins the trust of his unit (Mackie, Geraghty et al) despite a number of disagreements between his repeated efforts to get everyone killed and their ultimate aim of not getting killed. This is where I’d usually give a brief rundown of the plot of the film, but this film was essentially devoid of plot, deciding rather to follow a simple pattern:

Squad receives tipoff regarding IED → James dons suit and goes to investigate → tense standoff with suspicious-looking Middle-Eastern man → James does something outlandish and life-endangering → James successfully defuses bomb → repeat.

It may be telling that the part of this movie I most enjoyed was the (all too brief) encounter with the British soldiers, including Ralph Fiennes’ reprisal of his role of “English Guy stuck in Desert”. Maybe a film like this doesn’t appeal to me as a Brit nearly as much as to the Americans at the Academy who I get the impression are much more connected to their military. We barely seem to care about our own troops, so why would I be interested in the slow (boring) tale of a “maverick” American bomb disposal technician? On the other hand, my American girlfriend didn’t seem to enjoy the film any more than I did. Maybe it was because the plot was boring and the cast was boring (take a bow, Jeremy Renner).

Still, somebody somewhere must have liked the film, and I don’t begrudge them that; it was certainly well-made and some of the explosion scenes are close to breath-taking (although perhaps a big screen would have pushed this up a notch). I’m sure it’s a good film for someone who likes this kind of thing, but I’m also sure (this being my second viewing to be absolutely certain) that I’m not one of these people. It’s just that seeing essentially the same scene over and over doesn’t get me all that excited, however well-shot and “tense” the scene may be.

The movie ends with James, who used to be so excited by the thrill of war, coming home and realising that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be and he’d rather be at home with his wife and young child. If he’d been willing to listen to me, I could have told him this at the beginning of the movie and saved us all a yawn-inducing two hours and six minutes.

My rating: 5/10

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