The Hurt Locker (USA; 131 min.)

directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
starring: Jeremy Renner; Anthony Mackie; Brian Geraghty; Guy Pearce; Ralph Fiennes; David Morse; Evangeline Lilly
The Hurt Locker

Diane says: "My stomach was in knots during the whole of THE HURT LOCKER a fine-grained study of a three-man American bomb squad unit in Iraq. Camera stays so close to the characters that you think what they think. The unit's work of disarming bombs is presented clearly and simply, so the viewer is available for emotional engagement right away. The few scenes that are not of bomb runs pack a wallop for character development; in the meantime we, like Bravo Company, are being worn down by fear, moral questions, repetition, failure, hate. Noms for direction, cinematography, ensemble, lead actor Jeremy Renner,* best movie. Just extraordinary. 5 cats.

"*His twin brother, Jeremie Renier, is in a new release from the Dardenne brothers."


Thom says: "Bigelow’s curriculum vitae is far from impressive, & I, for one, have trouble with this film getting so many accolades for her all of a sudden. That’s not to say it wasn’t well made and somewhat entertaining, even well-acted. This is the story of a talented Army bomb squad who always seem at death’s door, not only from the scary bombs but the ever-curious Iraqi onlookers. But here’s the thing: the film lacks a political point of view and the fact that we are still in Iraq after so many illegal years, & so many Iraqi citizens have been killed in the name of 'freedom' I finally ended up not caring what happened, or understanding what the film was made for. And for pure art, Brian De Palma’s REDACTED is far superior."

Jason responds: "Is it really fair to criticize a movie for not doing something that it seemingly made a conscious effort not to do?  THE HURT LOCKER struck me as deliberately apolitical, with a goal of delivering thrills and drama without indicting or condoning the circumstances three steps removed that led to those thrills and drama.  In the context of its story - how the Jeremy Renner character's addiction to danger makes him both the best bomb-disposal tech around and a potential threat to the safety of his unit - putting the war in a political context would be a needless distraction, and maybe make it as unendurable as many of the heartfelt but actually pretty terrible war movies that have come out over the past ten years.

As to 'what the film was made for'...  Entertainment, the best reason for a fictional film to be made."

Rob responds: "I think George Bush should be strapped to a chair and forced to watch THE HURT LOCKER  everyday for the rest of his life.  That was my first thought after seeing the film so I guess, at least for me, the film had tremendous political force.

"By focusing on the psychological effects of war on a single soldier, Bigelow has, I think, made a very powerful statement...whether that statement is political or humanist is just a matter of symantics.  Bigelow has long been fascinated with violence in her films and in THE HURT LOCKER that fascination cuts like a razor.  The fact that Renner's character is both heroic and reckless only serves to underscore the complexity of violence and war.   

"It is interesting that Bigelow has withheld her film from wide release, despite its many awards from critics groups.  The DVD was released today and that usually only occurs after a film's theatrical run has been exhausted.  Perhaps she was afraid that her film would just be classified as 'another Iraq War movie' and that it would suffer the same dismal fate as many other films dealing with the Iraq War.  She has an important message to deliver and I think she was more concerned with her delivering her message than big box office."

Thom responds: "I appreciate both of your defenses of Ms. Bigelow’s award-winning film and, admittedly, I based my rating on gut reactions. By the way, THE HURT LOCKER did re-open in San Francisco & is still playing due to its huge award successes (Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Austin, & San Francisco Film Critics Associations all chose it as the best film from 2009). But that being said, I simply wasn’t that impressed wit it. Nonetheless, your arguments are stellar! Has either of you seen REDACTED?"

Lisa responds: "Don’t be ashamed of your critical reaction of THE HURT LOCKER. It lost its way for me after the first third of the movie. It devolved into a TV drama. I know, I know, it’s the female director thing but there were much better movies out there this year."

Michael says: "So, what’s the big achievement accomplished by Kathryn Bigelow with THE HURT LOCKER?  That she can make a war movie that’s as macho and telegraphed as her male counterparts?  I’m sure there’s a good movie here, I’m afraid that movies on the topic of war are just totally lost on me.  It’s not that I think THE HURT LOCKER’S message wasn’t important, or that the acting was poor, or the production quality was bad… quite the opposite.  I just don’t enjoy watching war movies, and I don’t think I ever will.  Next time I’ll no better not to try.

In all honesty, I do think Mark Boal’s screenplay was pretty heavy handed, so it would definitely lose points for that even if I enjoyed war films."

Jason responds: "Man, why do you feel you've got to go there, and first thing to boot?  Aside from it just being generally uncool to imply that certain types of movies are the domain of men and others are that of women, this is the sort of movie Bigelow has made for her entire career; it's not like this is proving that she's not limited to girly stories or can't hang with the other great action directors.

Debate the movie on its merits if you want, but that really seems unfairly dismissive."

Rob responds: "I agree with Jay.  Bigelow has been studying violence in her films throughout her career and in THE HURT LOCKER she explores the adrenaline rush that makes danger and violence addictive.  Quite an interesting premise, I think, and more complex than the usual stuff of war movies.   Michael, I can understand your dislike of the film if you dislike war movies in general, but I think in the context of war-movie genre, Bigelow offers some compelling insights."

Michael responds: "Both your points are well taken, and I really shouldn’t have been so glib with my comments about Bigelow.  I’m actually quite pleased the film is getting so much attention, and really hope Bigelow gets an Oscar nomination.  I am familiar with Bigelow’s body of work, I loved NEAR DARK.  And I’m very pleased to see her getting these accolades.

"That said after reading so much about the film and having my expectations raised, I was very disappointed with THE HURT LOCKER.  As I explained, I’m not a fan of the war movie in general, and I was tempted to turn it off pretty quickly, but I decided to continue watching.  In the end, while it did explore some interesting areas, ultimately I don’t think it did so all that originally.  Much of this ground I’ve seen explored before, most recently in a documentary format which rendered it much more chilling for me.  And I found the screenplay to spin out in a fairly overwrought manner."

Marilyn says: "Interesting comments...Bigelow really wants to match up with the guys.  She would not let this movie go to a women's film festival it was reported so she could separate herself  from the 'woman' niche.  And while I liked the did remind me of more than one episode of '24'" 

Toni says: "I finally sawTHE HURT LOCKER after the hype and it definitely had some moments.  The 1st 2/3 of the film had you on the edge as you were wondering who was going to die next and the 3 main characters were played by actors who all gave strong performances.  Why did they cast David Morse, Ralph Fiennes, and Guy Pearce for 5 minutes in this film each?  It is not really add that much to the plot and frankly seemed out of place.  I agree with folks that stated the film was too melodramatic at the end.  I personally like melodrama where there is a point for it.  Adding the music in the end of the film in a film at only had a few Ministry songs seemed forced when initially the best part was the docu-feel of the scenes.  There is a definite turning point after the situation with the Beckham little boy character where it all 'jumps the shark'…Better than AVATAR, yes, but that is not saying much.  Certainly not a great film, but had some promise…3 1/2 IEDs"

Chris says: "I'm also not a big fan of war movies, but I found this film riveting from the getgo.  Granted, war's psychological effects and the ideas of war and combat as addiction have been well-explored elsewhere, so what makes THE HURT LOCKER different?  Well, the film does take an almost entirely non-polemic stance, which you have to admit is pretty rare. In fact, it's tempting to suggest that the war itself is almost superfluous here and boil the entire thing down to a character study about the thrill and pull of having to do an ultra-risky job that infects a life to a degree that that's all there is.  Alas, war is the essential backdrop for the action here - you just can't separate it out. But, you leave the film not thinking 'war is bad' or even 'war is hell' but with something far more complex and a little subversive--one of the rare instances where I didn't know whether to fear or feel relieved by the main character's suggested destiny.

"Also, the camerawork and editing are both ace - together, they give the film a sense of you-are-there realism while still building up tension like a classic thriller."