Sunday, 16 May 2010

The Hurt Locker - Review


Watching this on BluRay is a disarming experience.  The hand held high def cameras and documentary style in many scenes give a palpable sense of being there.  You feel a part of the movie, surely not a coincidence, the screen play was written by a journalist embedded with an EOD unit (US Bomb Squad) in Iraq.

The film follows a three man team who's job is to disarm explosives left by insurgents.  Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) is the reckless leader, hooked on the adrenaline of his job and fresh from a spell in Afghanistan.  It's a superb performance, Catherine Bigelow giving the character room to breathe and develop so that despite his foolhardy style, his team consider killing him at one point because of how dangerous he is, we get to see true personality in brief moments.  One scene in particular will stay with me for a long time.  James alone in his room, in bed, the huge protective suit helmet on, unable to let go of what he is.

It's a film about many things.  War, yes, but not so much the horror of it as the sheer senselessness of Iraq and what we're doing there.  It's about the three man team, how they interact and deal with going out every day, knowing that it could be their last.  Mostly though it's about fear.  James' controls his by taking a piece of every bomb back with him from each job.  He doesn't show it at all on the job, brash, yet determined to defuse each explosive with humour and a deft understanding of how a bomb works.

Sergeant Sanborne (Anthony Mackie) goes on a journey emotionally but there's always a desperate sense of the man's need to survive and have control of every situation.  You never get to a point where he and James understand each other but there's respect between them and a mutual desire to live.  Sanborne's fear is there in his struggle to come to terms with James style, you can see it feeding his primal survival instinct.

Specialist Eldridge (Brain Geraghty) is the youngest member of the team.  Scarred by the opening chapter of the movie and living on his nerves throughout.  It's he who displays his fear and guilt and it's him the audience relate too initially before warming to James.

What director Catherine Bigelow does so well here is never give you any peace.  Even in the scenes when the American's are back at base there's a sense of danger, of attack from any direction.  It creates an atmosphere that's comparable to Alien in that you're never allowed to relax.  The soldiers are living on their nerves, distrusting everyone, from a man filming a bomb disposal to a bunch of kids watching them from above.  The one bonding scene between the three leads even comes with it's own tension and darkness such is the volatile nature of their tenuous friendships.  Because of this the movie feels alive, violence and death are omnipresent throughout but this is no glorification, more like a sense check.  This is how it is in Iraq, the movie screams at you, and it's fucking shit.

All the performances are superb, that and the gritty feel of the movie make the whole thing hang together in a truly believable fashion.  By the end of the movie you understand James and the opening quotation, it all feels so very real.

Sergeant James is addicted to the buzz of his job.  Completely.  The closing scenes bring that out in shocking bleakness and honesty.

Truly a movie to make you think.  Which is the last thing you'd probably be expecting.