Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Hurt Locker

Last night Rachel and I decided to rent a movie from our local Blockbuster. We originally were aiming for the last season and a half of The Wire, but unfortunately they were all out of it at the time. So, we decided to increase our knowledge of Oscar hopeful movies by renting The Hurt Locker.

The Hurt Locker is set in Iraq in 2004 and follows a bomb-disposal squad during the last month or so of their deployment. When the team leader is killed by a cell phone triggered IED he is replaced by Sgt. James, a "wild man" who thoroughly enjoys his job of defusing enemy ordnance. He enjoys it perhaps too much, as his lack of care for his own personal safety and at times impulsive nature lead the team into potentially deadly situations again and again.

If you have heard any of the hype surrounding this movie, believe it- it is that good. The relationships between the three men of the team and those around them are electrifying and add a great level of tension even during their down time. Their reactions to the local environs are also excellently tense and believable- in an arena where ANYONE watching their delicate operations could be an insurgent, even scenes where there is no weapons fire will grab you by the edge of your seat. That is not to say that the entire movie is a tension grinder- there are (sometimes darkly) light parts between and during the action to break up the pace at the right times.

I think that probably the best thing about the movie is that it doesn't exactly have a bias on the war. While it certainly shows the terrible side of it, it also shows more humane sides of the conflict. Sgt. James in particular is drawn to the combat partially because he wants to help people- the scenes in which he struggles with the situation at hand to help out Iraqi citizens are some of the best in the movie. It also subtly weaves in the reasons why soldiers often end up re-enlisting- the movie's byline, "War is a drug" certainly sits as an apt description of this reason.

Another reason that this movie sat so well with me is that while it is "adrenaline-soaked" and "action packed" it does not glorify in violence or turn to war-porn. The explosions are mostly sudden plumes of grey smoke and debris that leave little in their wake except rubble. There are a few disturbing scenes, but the camera does not dwell on them to focus on the blood and gore, more the horrible reality of the situation. Even situations where someone is shot are done realistically with a puff of red mist as the bullet impacts on the target... and even that doesn't happen very much in the film. They also show the mundanely terrifying that can be found in battles- the sniper scene is a keen example of this, where waiting in the hot sun for hours for a possible gunman to appear is made exceedingly tense. And of course there are the parts outside of the action, which show more of how the soldiers react to the locals and to each other.

In all, this is an excellent movie that I think most people will like. There is plenty of action, plenty of excitement, a really good story, believable characters, and great moral questions that appear throughout the movie. If it gets best picture, it will definitely have deserved it, as this is one that you don't want to miss.

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