Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Hurt Locker (Rhoades)

“The Hurt Locker” Is Explosive Story
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

I sometimes refer to action films as “bang-bang boom-boom movies,” a reference to the shoot-em-ups and explosions that have become so familiar to audiences. Well, here’s one that can certainly be described as “boom-boom.”

“The Hurt Locker” is about a military bomb squad. It’s exploding again this week at the Tropic Cinema, a return engagement after winning the Academy Award for Best Picture.

There have been movies before about men whose job it is to defuse bombs. One memorable example was “Blown Away,” starring Jeff Bridges as a bomb squad cop out to catch an IRA bombmaker. (Bridges just won Best Actor for “Crazy Hearts,” also playing at the Tropic).

In “The Hurt Locker,” three members of the Army’s elite Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) squad are assigned to disarm roadside bombs near Baghdad.

The trio is played by Jeremy Renner (“The Assassination of Jesse James”), Anthony Mackie (“Half Nelson”), and Brian Geraghty (“Jarhead”). Ralph Fiennes (“The Reader”), David Morse (“John Adams”), Evangeline Lilly (“Lost”), and Guy Pearce (“Memento”) also do cameos.

As the story goes, Bravo Company is a small counterforce specifically trained to handle homemade bombs (known as Improvised Explosive Devices). These IEDs account for more than half of all hostile deaths of American soldiers in Iraq.

The message here is that personal relationships are just as explosive as bombs. When a new staff sergeant (Renner) takes over the team, he’s seen as a cowboy with a reckless disregard for protocol and basic safety measures. With only 39 days left on their tour, two of the soldiers (Mackie and Geraghty) try to avoid disaster at the hands of a leader who doesn’t seem to know the difference between bravery and bravado.

“The Hurt Locker” is based on the first-hand experiences of journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal. On an embed in Iraq, he got to duck shrapnel as bomb squads exploded homemade IEDs.

Kathryn Bigelow brought it all to the screen. She’s a terrific director, capable of handling quirky subjects. Like her classic “Point Break.” Or the vampire film, “Near Dark.” Or the sci-fi thriller, “Strange Days.”

Seeking greater authenticity, Bigelow filmed in Jordan, less than three miles from the Iraqi border. Her cast attests to its accuracy. “They were throwing rocks. We got shot at a few times while we were filming,” Renner said. “When you see it, you’re gonna feel like you’ve been in war.”

“I wanted you to walk out of the theater and wipe the sand off your pants,” agrees Bigelow. “There’s a real visceral, raw, immediate immersion into a day in the life of a bomb tech.”
Bigelow says she wanted “The Hard Locker” to be “a combat film, not a re-integration to the home front, not an overt commentary on the war. It’s really meant to be reportorial.”

What she’s delivered is more a psychological profile of the men who disarm bombs in Iraq than a typical bang-bang boom-boom action film. “When you’re laying on your belly and you’re five inches away from the bomb, there’s no blast suit or helmet that’s going to protect you,” she says. “You’re intimate with an object that could spread your DNA into the next county if you make a mistake. There’s no margin for error.”

She obviously admires these brave soldiers. And it shows. “The Hard Locker” has already been called “a near-perfect movie about men in war….”

Winning the Best Picture Oscar is proof of that claim. Kathryn Bigelow also picked up a golden statuette as Best Director for “The Hurt Locker,” making her the first woman to ever win that honor. And in doing so she beat out her ex-husband James Cameron, pitting her little indie production against “Avatar,” the biggest grossing film in history. A true David and Goliath moment.
[from Solares Hill]

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