A Review by Jason L. King
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Rated: R for War Violence
Movie Released: 2009
I don’t think we as Americans take enough time out of our days to say thank you. Sure, everyone whips out an insincere thank you now and then, like when the guy in front of you holds the door for you. But that’s not the sort of thank you I think we as Americans need to do more of. Every day there are American soldiers stationed around the world, away from their families and every thing they love, sometimes dealing with the unthinkable so we can have the freedoms and liberties that we have today. I don’t know about you but I couldn’t think of a person who deserves a bigger thank you than someone who is willing to give their lives for your way of life.
Personally, I know I could never begin to fathom what it is like to be stationed in Iraq and see some of the things these men and women have seen. The old saying goes “War is Hell” and Iraq seems like the hottest, dirtiest, dustiest hell on earth. I had the great privilege of seeing a film over the last week called The Hurt Locker that reminded me of all of these things and more.
The Hurt Locker is a film about EOD agents, also known as the military bomb squad. The film follows a 3 man crew on their last 45 days of their rotation as they work with the military diffusing road side IEDs, car bombs and other high explosive scenarios. One of the team members (the newest of the group after an unfortunate accident) is a bit of a crazed adrenaline junkie who is all to eager roll the dice and taunt death with every call to duty.
I really loved this film because from my understanding it gives the most telling tale of the lives of our soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. After having some conversations with a few old friends that have been stationed there at one point and time, and even after talking with a new found friend on the film’s opening night at my theater, I realized with each passing conversation that director Kathryn Bigelow did a wonderful job of bringing the horrors of war and the heart felt adrenaline to the big screen. Bigelow shoots the film in almost a documentary style, making you feel like you are right amidst the action, keeping your heart pounding in sync with the men sworn to protect us. She finds a way to bring to life the unfortunate, gritty realization that in Iraq, it’s a different way of life. While there are many people who want us there, there are many who do not and are willing to send us to Allah to prove it. From road side bombs buried in the sand, to car bombs, suicide bombs or even a bomb hidden in the trash on the curb, Bigelow helps us quickly realize the dangerous situation not only our men and women are in, but everyone in a Iraq is in daily.
Secondly, I really enjoyed this film because of its main character, Sgt. William James. James is a wild man, adrenaline junkie and every bomb he gets his hands on is one more thrill ride for him. Because of this he is wild and reckless and while he tries to do good, he some times puts his fellow soldiers at risk. He’s the character you want to hate with everything you’ve got in you. But just as that hatred starts to set in, he does something redeeming and you find your self rooting for him again. James is played by Jeremy Renner, an actor who kind of resembles a more redneckish Daniel Craig in this film, whose more notable past performances have been roles in SWAT and 28 Weeks Later. Renner takes the reigns in this one and does a fantastic job with the role. He brings a complexity to the character that just might wind up putting him in a dark horse running for an Oscar.
I would be lying to you however if I told you everyone was going to love this picture with every fiber of their being. Truth is, at times it’s tough to watch. There is gruesome content, and there are some people you aren’t going to like. You’re not always going to like Renner’s character. It has a complexity to it that just doesn’t agree with all audiences. Also, Bigelow’s documentary style makes this film a very realistic view of Iraq, but it also means that the camera runs for long takes and some of the scenes do drag on a bit if you aren’t willing to look close at them and try to figure out what she is trying to do in each scene. Bigelow tries to challenge the viewer with each shot, and some viewers just don’t want to see that in a movie. I’m not going to be a film snob here and tell you that you should want to be challenged by every movie you see (blah blah blah), if that’s not your style, that is fine. Just know then that this film may not be for you. There is nothing wrong with wanting something very different in a film. To each their own I say! None the less, because of the way the film is shot, Bigelow gives us a film that has a 2 hr. 10 minute runtime that is going to go by quickly for some and may seem to drag for others.
One of the other things I personally had no issue with but I think I could see others mentioning is the monotony of the soldiers job. We follow these guys as they go from mission to mission and bomb to bomb. Some may say the parameters change, the bombs change but it’s the same idea just rinse and repeat for two hours. Personally, I beg to differ with that statement but I can see where some people may get that idea and actually be put off by the movie.
When it is all said and done, I really enjoyed this movie. Or at least enjoyed the movie as much as one can when it deals with an all to real scenario. While the year is still young as far as award seasons go, I think The Hurt Locker has a really good chance of giving Summit Entertainment a Best Picture nod. I saw the film twice in three days and while it lost some of it’s effect the second go round (not a film you should watch 2 times really close together) it still really impressed me. When you get a chance to pick this film up on DVD or find it playing at a theater near you, check it out. I think you will be more than glad that you did.
Last but certainly not least, take the time to say thank you. A GENUINE thank you to all the brave men and women out there protecting us daily. Whether it be recognizing a previous war vet on the street and thanking them for serving, or looking up a friend who is serving (or even his or her family) just take the time to thank them for all they do.