The Raw war from Kathryn Bigelow
Oscar winning movie "The Hurt Locker" is a movie which is brave for being different; it looks and feels different to the norm but then manages to bring in some mainstream elements to make it a commercially acceptable movie. As such it is a wonderful movie taking you on a journey into the hazardous lives of the brave men who disarm bombs during the war, their personal reasons for doing so and then topping it off with some tension that makes what could have been a bit self indulgent into a more mainstream, more appealing movie to those who want special effects and action.
Following the death of their leader, Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner- 28 Weeks Later) takes over as the bomb disposal expert for a special team working in Iraq. But his unorthodox methods, which see him regularly going against protocol risking his life in order to disarm bombs doesn't site well with his team, Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie - Heavens Fall) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty - Jarhead) who fear his antics will lead to their own death as he spirals into an almost risk addiction.
What is immediately noticeable is that "The Hurt Locker" looks different to a normal mainstream movie as it merges documentary style footage with high end production which take it from seeming low budget to something bigger. The shaky hand held camera shots which suddenly zoom in from a distance give it an almost earthy, raw feel which is appropriate considering the storyline. It is also surprisingly effective delivering aspects of being at war which many movies spoil by making it glossy. But then you get those moments, the impressive opening explosion which looks like it would be more at home in a John Woo movie as well as the close ups of Sergeant James disarming bombs with almost reckless abandon which deliver that wow aspect, that blend brilliantly with the more raw footage.
But it is the underlying story which is equally impressive as it delivers an emotional impact. You really get a sense that these brave men are there putting their lives on the line not just as they disarm these improvised bombs but also the constant threat of sniper fire. In fact one of the most impressive scenes doesn't revolve around the bomb disposal but the long painful fight in the deserts when the special bomb disposal team are pinned down in the dunes under the glaring sun, forced to stay till they are 100% sure that there are no more snipers. It's an amazing scene and gives you an insight into how hard life really is in a war zone.
But there are other aspects and as such you have the sort of commercial side of the movie which revolves around Sergeant James and his almost cowboy style antics as bomb disposal expert. Yes this delivers that bravado of a cavalier hero who doesn't fear death but also a lot more a look at this man who not so much lives for the adrenalin of being that close to death but needs it in his life to feel like he's living. It is a remarkable performance from Jeremy Renner who gives us that bravado perfectly but then delivers the emotion of the character as we learn it's not just recklessness but just the way he works.
Alongside Renner are equally impressive performances from Anthony Mackie as Sgt. Sergeant JT Sanborn and also Brian Geraghty as Specialist Owen Eldridge who between them highlight the opposing feelings that of fear and just doing their job, not for the kicks but because it is what they do.
But whilst you get all of this director Kathryn Bigelow delivers even more, she captures the setting, the dangerous litter strewn streets, the constant threat from the locals and also the extent they will go to kill. It's an interesting prospective when you get the sort of cat n mouse games between Sergeant James as he disarms the bombs knowing that above him the bomber is watching. But then you also get the more emotional aspect where a young innocent gets killed which then makes it not so much about war but something a little more personal and hard hitting.
What this all boils down to is that "The Hurt Locker" is a stunning movie, worthy of the awards it has won and is one of the few more commercial movies this year which have been brave enough to be different. It's a movie which draws you in not just to the lives of these brave men but also the emotional side of the story as we begin to understand why they act in certain ways despite the constant threat of death. It delivers amazing tension which keeps you glues but then also an understanding of how hard life is. But most importantly it is brave mixing almost documentary like footage with more mainstream aspects to deliver a movie which is different to many mainstream movies and brilliant for being so.