The Hurt Locker (2009)

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This is a well-made movie, certainly the better-made movie of the two real contenders. Personal disclosure: I don't like war films. They bore me. I was bored. However, I appreciate this film. It's well-crafted and well-acted. Particular attention should be paid to Jeremy Renner's understated delivery of his scenes while home with his family. This movie does contain a couple of cameos that put Sally Hawkins's to shame with their overwhelming ridiculousness; excellent work, Guy and Ralph. These were truly career-defining moments! But the lead performances are wonderful and never wander into Avatar/District 9-style badassery. No doubt that 14-year-old boy was gagging to get his hands on this one. Kathryn Bigelow deserves an Oscar just for deftly keeping him at bay.


If you know me at all, you know that I have a list. This list consists of movies that I don't enjoy, per se, and will never voluntarily watch on my own. The mention of their title puts me into something of a hibernation state and I kind of zone out and budget out my finances and such while everyone else gushes about how amazing it is, and when someone or everyone turns to me for my opinion, I say it: "I didn't like it. But I respect it."

Star Wars. Any of the Lord of the Rings films, save the final one. Most film adaptations of classic novels (especially those taking place in Europe).

The Hurt Locker is one of those films. Ironically, it's probably also the movie I rooted for the most in all of its nominated categories. I understand my own shortcomings when it comes to dealing with my own attention span. I fully acknowledge my personal preference for films with a wide color palette that extends outside of tan. As a rule of thumb, if it can be classified in any way as an action movie (to include action-dramas or action-musicals), you're better off just keeping it to yourself.

The Hurt Locker is interesting when thinking of it as an action movie, in that that's an entirely inaccurate statement to make: The Hurt Locker is an in-action movie, as we spend almost the entire films two hours waiting for something, ANYTHING to happen. And nothing usually does. In many ways, it almost would be more accurately classified as a horror movie, as explosions rip through the air out of nowhere, and the orchestral strings figuratively melt our faces off as a star formation of undetonated bombs are drawn together by one chain residing in their center (I acknowledge this sounds entirely lame, but it's a moment one has to see for oneself to understand).

Any problems I have with this film's pacing are, I suppose, my own problems to deal with, much in the same way that people who don't like musicals don't like Moulin Rouge. Fair enough. But in order to accurately review films, one has to step outside of personal preference and attempt to take note of what makes the film so remarkable to everyone else who won't stop talking about it. When analyzing the film this way, I feel The Hurt Locker does a number of really incredible things: 1) It takes a non-biased approach to documenting an issue that is currently occurring, 2) It exposes you to a different perspective of war in general, a topic that has been covered and glamourized time and time again, 3) It entertains and 4) It manages to subtly and without obvious manipulation, be a rather moving film.

I don't think it's likely I'll ever feel that The Hurt Locker was the most entertained I felt this year (Fantastic Mr. Fox)... but in hindsight, no other film made me feel more confident in the present condition of American independent cinema, which took a severe beating after The Blind Side, Avatar, and most notably, Crazy Heart. In a time when most every plot and theme have been explored time and time again... it's nice to sleep through half of something so fresh and new.


Probably the most detailed and gritty of the 2009 candidates for best picture, The Hurt Locker is a film about one expert bomb disarmer's 38-day stint in the Iraqi War. The apparent main theme of this movie is that war is like a drug. This theme is summed up at the end of the film by the lead's inability to return comfortably back to his home life. Other scenes reflect this theme as well, such as one almost unwatchable scene between two grown men beating each other up for fun.

The majority of this film is an uncomfortable and largely unenjoyable watch. However, the often drawn-out bomb disarming scenes and the American vs. Iraqi conflict scenes build suspense and add to the overall realism of life as an American soldier in Iraq. After my first viewing, I was impatient and bored; but after a second viewing, I gained a better appreciation for the detail and achievement. This film truly feels like a modern classic, just not one completely to my taste. I'd prefer to see a documentary version.