"If I'm gonna die, I want to die comfortable."
, 18 Aug 2009
Premiering at the 2008 Venice Film Festival, 'The Hurt Locker' received a ten minute standing ovation at the end of its screening. Subject to much critical praise, the film will finally reach British shores with its theatrical release in August 2009. Few films about the conflict in Iraq or Afghanistan have managed to capture the essence of what it means to be fighting in a country where anyone and everyone is a potential enemy, and the understandable stresses that places on the human mind and body. With a highly realistic aesthetic and almost non-stop tension 'The Hurt Locker' allows us mere mortals a glimpse of what it really means to fight for your country.
Opening with a regular day for an 'Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit' (bomb squad to you and me) the film starts as it means to go on with a very sudden and violent end for one of the team. Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) is moved in to replace the lost soldier, and he is quick to prove to his fellow team members that he is a lot less concerned with his own safety then his predecessor. This is aptly shown when he suits up in the 'bomb suit' to investigate a suspected device personally rather than send in the bomb disposal robot first. Understandably his new colleagues aren't impressed, particularly Sergeant J.T. Sandborn (Anthony Mackie) who has trouble adjusting to a team leader who takes his earpiece out whenever the word withdraw is mentioned. The last member of the team, Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), is also disturbed by the change in the team, but is too busy dealing with his own guilt over the death that brought James into their unit to really get worked up about him.
With the characters established the story takes us through a selection of the incidents the unit have to deal with during their rotation, not least of which is a sniper shoot out in the Iraqi desert, which is so painfully accurate its almost uncomfortable. Kathryn Bigelow (director of Strange Days and Point Break among others) amps up the tension in every scene of the conflict, keeping the audience not only on the edge of their seat but at times making them fall off it, and making you question if these highly likable characters are going to make it.
Excellent performances round out an almost perfect film, with believable dialogue and very naturalistic acting from not only the leads but the supporting cast and the extras, many of whom were genuine Iraqis living in Jordan, where the film was made. Combined with the camera work, that resembles embed journalist film rather than Hollywood shots, The Hurt locker amounts to a fantastic film experience, that still manages to not trivialise its subject matter, and will leave audiences wondering is it wrong that I dont want this to end?
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