Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is a film about the war in Iraq like Titanic was about a doomed ocean liner. Yes, exactly and no, not really.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, it is a serious action movie that rattles your nerves while holding you uncomfortably, even painfully spellbound.

We have become familiar with war through the lens of fiction; the brotherhood, the camaraderie, the quiet moments of terror and the blood, tears, toil and sweat. This war is in Iraq, with barren bleached deserts and suicide bombers. There is no preaching or political positing. You won’t find a convenient villain or plod through boot camp. The framework is simple; these soldiers enlisted, and they’re counting the days until their rotation is done.

This story follows the bomb squad, which is brutal work anywhere, but especially when you’re in a scorching desert, need an interpreter and bombs are buried in garbage, cars and even cadavers. The camera work is phenomenal, so much so that you are in the 100 pound protective suit with the lead character Sergeant James, moving slowly as a deep sea diver as he digs his fingers through tangled wires with his face pressed against a charred casing. Maybe he’ll make it. Maybe he won’t make it. That sort of experience changes a person. Although the panic and dread is part of the process, he manages to put it aside to get the job done. But how does a person get back to ‘normal’ when the job is over? Is it even possible? That lingering, all-encompassing question is why this is such an outstanding film about war.

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