My heart is still pounding from seeing “The Hurt Locker” last night, the most riveting movie to hit theaters this year. The movie takes a unique approach, using a bomb squad in Iraq to show that for some, war is not hell but an addiction. Dynamite performances from Jeremy Renner as the fearless bomb disarmer & Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty as his comrades who have to deal with him putting them so close to death every day in the field are what propel the movie. Equally stunning though is director Kathryn Bigelow’s vision for the film, and it is refreshing to see war from a different and distinct vantage point.
The movie isn’t very plot driven, and I think that works to its advantage. It plays out almost like a documentary, which gives it a very authentic feel. And with that comes a very natural suspense, and the uncertainty of every situation makes your heart pound. Bigelow makes a wise decision not to score the film’s most chilling moments, taking a tip from the Coens “No Country for Old Men,” and Iraq’s natural sounds are infinitely more gripping than hearing a soundtrack.
The movie mainly concerns itself with developing its three main characters, and it does so extraordinarily well. It is a marvel to peel back the layers of Staff Sergeant James (Renner). We find a man addicted the adrenaline rush of being in the face of death but is profoundly afraid of life back home with his family. Specialist Eldridge (Geraghty) is the polar opposite of James, constantly fearing his end and petrified in the face of death. He always resents James’ daring ways. Sergeant Sanborn (Mackie) is somewhere in between the two, never petrified by the thought of death but knows the stakes and wants to be cautious.
Renner gives an absolute tour de force performance as James. He strips James down until he is emotionally raw, although the script backs down from getting to the core of who his character really is. Renner also plays James with a striking charisma and humor. He makes his character real, and if the Oscars do not recognize him with at least a nomination, there is truly no justice in the world. Mackie is also sensational, playing his qualms with James’ behavior in the field with quiet strength. Geraghty often plays Eldridge like the clichéd troubled soldier, but he has some great moments where his character really comes alive.
“The Hurt Locker” is truly an exceptional film in that is driven by human drama rather than combat. And because it is set in Iraq in 2004 before the more recent successful troop surge, the triumph or failure of the bomb team is never certain. This lends the movie a sense of unpredictability and thus makes it all the more compelling and unnerving. If there is a more suspenseful and forceful movie in 2009, then we have a really special year ahead of us. A /