Monday, 5 October 2009

Review: The Hurt Locker (Spoilers)

I’m not sure how to review this film. It's left me torn on how to rate it. It’s not a factual documentary but it’s not quite a traditional ‘film’ either. The plot revolves around key personnel from an elite US army bomb squad stationed in Iraq. Basically, it’s a ‘war really f*cks you up’ type of film. It’s effective in showing us the harsh reality of working in Iraq and risking your life defusing indiscriminately placed bombs (there are thankfully no clichéd ‘red wire/blue wire’ moments).

Kathryn Bigelow directs the film masterfully and manages to elicit some good humour and unexpected laughs from very tense situations. But I struggled with the main character, Sergeant William James played by the ever watch-able and excellent Jeremy Renner. His portrayal of a maverick ‘f*ck the rules’ bomb disposal expert is a mix between Johnny Utah and Bodhi – characters immortalized in Point Break – a previous Kathryn Bigelow film. He’s the unpredictable, rebellious, reckless, seemingly fearless one who’s holding on to an awful amount of pain. This time letting off a few rounds into the air while crying in agony won’t work to relieve the stress. Ok, ok I’ll quit with the Point Break references now if I must.

Parts of the film are tense. The heart starts pounding, you stop breathing and you wait for that inevitable ‘boom’ that may or may not arrive. For this reason the film cannot really be faulted. If you’re a real cynic though, you could just say that Sgt William James is a nut job who enjoys the thrill of defusing bombs instead of staying home with his baby boy and the boy’s mother, played by Evangeline Lilly. The civvy scenes do show him to be clearly bored and frustrated and his talk with his baby son seemed contrived. The cynical view wouldn’t do justice to the intention of the writer Mark Boal. I’m guessing the intention was to show the risks involved in doing a remarkably hard, thankless and stressful job where your main concern is simply staying alive. In this regard the film succeeds. But I can’t seem to escape my gut feeling that the film could have been so much more. If you want to see a film that shows the indiscriminate brutality of war and its affects on soldiers, you have a heap of quality films to choose from. My picks would be: Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now and Platoon. If you want something more recent then I’d pick The Kingdom (directed by Peter Berg) which is underrated in my opinion. That’s not to say that The Hurt Locker is a bad film it’s just that it pales in comparison to the ones I’ve just mentioned.

Treehouse Rating: 3/5

Worth a watch in the cinema


Hunter said...

You're going down, Bodhi.

Nice review.

S1nnerman said...

"Yo, Johnny! I see you in the next life!" :)

Point Break ... terrible film but I do love it so. And thank you. Not sure Munial will agree actually ... we will see!

Munial said...

Hrrmmmm, 4 stars for me - I'll concede it didn't really do anything revolutionary. You could get the same message across in 3 minutes - title card (war is a drug), 30 second montage of nailbiting bomb defusin' insurgent shootin' mayhem, cut to can't adjust to normal life, cut to back in action, the end. Still, it was supremely well made and since written by a guy who'd been embedded with a unit like that, its probably a pretty accurate account of what's going on over there. Scary stuff.