Review #4 – The Hurt Locker

It was this time of year 8 years ago that i saw one of the best films ever made in my history of film class at Fitchburg state (shameless plug for my Alma Mater: Check). Before we watched Ladri di Biciclette, Dr. Bohrer explained why this film is so great, appearing on many top 10 lists of all time. “It isn’t because of the talent of the actors (who, in “Ladri di Biciclette” were not actors at all) but because of the way it is shot. You can feel the sorrow and despair in the characters, smell the stench coming up from the street, feel the heat – those things combine to create a story you can feel, not just watch”

As I watch a story about the last 38 days of a 3 man bomb diffusion team in Iraq, those words from Dr Bohrer ring as true today as they did in the spring of 2002. It is 64 degrees in my apartment, 21 degrees outside, yet I don’t even notice the cold as I watch the Hurt Locker. I am enraptured by the do or die moment my moment hanging, the adrenaline, the pure heat of desert warfare, the smells of the dead – all permeate into one solid fact – I know this is the best overall film I have seen all year.

The story is of team leader Sergeant William James (Played by Jeremy Renner) joining a new team in Bravo Company during their last 38 days of deployment. Setting an example of recklessness, it because quickly obvious to his team that Sgt James likes the high of danger that comes with dismantling IED’s in a war torn country. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the film brings home the feeling of war not captured in many recent films based in Iraq (Jarhead and Syrianna come to mind). Instead of putting the violence in your face, She instead keeps it minimal and at arms length, showing the uncomfortable nature of not knowing when your time is coming, and then – boom – the violence is gone in a flash leaving only silence in its wake. Being only the 4th female director (and only the second American – hard to believe but true) in history to be nominated for Best Director (the other 3: Lina Wertmüller for Seven beauties, Jane Campion for The Piano, and Sofia Coppola for Lost In Translation) and the fine quality of this film, I believe this to be her year to win.

Jeremy Renner is a fine actor (please reference “Dahmer” as an example) and relatively young by the Academy’s standards for Best Male Actor. Though solid in this role, nothing about it truly wows me. As I watched this the first time, I felt like this was a prequel to his character played in the movie “SWAT”; both are cocky, both have sharp military skills, both are loners, and both need to go away from their partners to prove themselves. That all being said, why does he deserve an Oscar for this role, and not one for “SWAT”?

The answer is: he doesn’t.

While I think Kathryn Bigelow should win either Best Picture or Best Director (putting her in uncharted territory history wise) I doubt she will take both in a year where she will be matched up against her ex husband’s epic AVATAR. Alas, but not unfortunate – for even though the pendulum may not swing this way for her on both, she will win one, and I imagine we will see the boy’s club open the door to a female member on March 7th.

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