HOLLYWOOD—Some films wow you as a viewer and there are some films that are so realistic, so visceral comparing them with any other film is impossible. “The Hurt Locker” is one of those films; a raw and riveting depiction of an elite army bomb squad whose job literally puts their lives in jeopardy each and every time —one minor mistake and there is no second chances. I praise it for being a film that has no political undertones and as a film that focuses on the mental state and terrifying danger these individuals encounter on a daily basis.
The film stars Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty who all deliver exceptional performances that light the screen on fire. They are all a part of the Bravo Company, which is on duty to diffuse bombs in the heart of Iraq. The first 10 minutes of the film is so tense, you fear for this elite squad who appears to know what they’re doing. After a minor miscalculation leads to the death of Sgt. Thompson (Guy Pearce), we begin to see Sgt. JT Sanborn (Mackie), slowly unravel. It is here that Sanbron is introduced to Staff Sgt. William James (Renner), who is the most qualified person to lead his team. He is the best at what he does, and makes no apologies for acknowledging it. He’s an attention-seeker.
Renner’s performance has garnered him an Oscar nomination for Lead Actor in a Motion Picture. He is cool, funny, reserved and a mystery at first glance. He always has a cigarette in his mouth, possibly a sign of how he deals with the nerves of his job. It’s an adrenaline rush for him to be placed in these dire situations where life and death can occur in a blink; the viewer sees the parallel all too easy with his family life. War is a drug for him, even more important is the realization that everyone has an addiction—good or bad.
James and Sanborn have a love/hate relationship that works well. Even though they may despise each other at times they realize they need one another to continue to survive and that creates an element of unity for Specialist Owen Eldridge (Geraghty) who is not afraid to reveal his fears of dying. He knows that each breathe he takes can be his last and it scares him; it scares the audience. Viewers even get a glimpse of the soldiers’ down time as they joke around drinking, fighting one another and talking about their family life. Perhaps the highlight in the film occurs when the team is sent to diffuse a bomb inside a building. It is here that James is forced to confront his demons and make an impossible decision. Renner’s emotion is real, unflinching and impossible to grasp.
The essence of time is such an important feature in the film, captured beautifully by director Kathryn Bigelow. The detail she captures on film is breathtaking; there isn’t a moment in the movie where as the viewer you doubt yourself to be in these characters shoes. She stages the action with such precision, you imagine yourself being there despite knowing all the horrors at each turn. A memorable moment in the film occurs in the heat of the battlefield. Bigelow depicts the slow moving elements of time effortlessly. Whether it is the sandstorms, the dehydration of the soldiers or perhaps the flies that that land on their mouths and eyelids, the viewer gets a glimpse of it all. She builds the tension in the action scenes with a poise that only intensifies until that climatic moment. There are so many jaw-dropping moments in the film it sends jolts through the viewer.
Will’s journey to find justice for what he believes to be a heinous crime puts his life in jeopardy, as well as his fellow comrades. The emotional rollercoaster for James, Sanborn and Eldridge punches the audience in the face relentlessly. No scene better sums it up, then the shower scene where James breaks down with his gear still on; the harsh reality and peril of his job finally sets in.
This film is full of stunning performances, smart writing and intricate action sequences that highlight the element of danger in Iraq, where everyone is suspect. The movie lingers with the viewer days after you’ve watched it; it haunts you in ways that many other films don’t. Renner’s performance is superb. I would not be surprised if he’s walks away with the Oscar for Lead Actor over Jeff Bridges on March 7. Not to mention I’m stunned the Academy overlooked Anthony Mackie for Best Supporting Actor, he’s incredible in the film. As for Bigelow she may become the first woman ever to win a Best Director statute and it’s well-deserved. “The Hurt Locker” is a film that needs to be seen more than once, and it’s a film that is proves cinema can be an astonishing piece of art when done correctly.