Sunday, July 26, 2009

I love movies.  I realize as someone who reviews movies for fun, it's probably not a shock, but it's the truth.  I love movies.  And one reason I love them so much is the fact that they can have so many different effects on the viewer.  Some movies are good when you want to do nothing more than veg out and waste a couple of hours watching giant robots explode their way through a nonsensical plot.  Other times you might want to return to the nostalgia of your childhood by watching a group of kids search for pirate treasure while being chased by a family of criminal.  And every so often a movie comes along that can transport you into the movie.  No matter the genre of film these rare gems make you feel as if you are in on the action and make you feel the emotions evoked by the characters on screen.  The Hurt Locker is one such gem.

The Hurt Locker is a small independent film, directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break), that follows the Army's bomb disposal unit stationed in Baghdad during the last 39 days of their tour.  The unit consists of Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner), Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty).  Sanborn and Eldridge are both dealing with the recent death of their former group leader, whom James has been brought in to replace.  For Sanborn and Eldridge the duty is a very serious job which puts them in risk of dying almost everyday.  But for James working with explosives seems to be a game.  Its obvious that he loves the rush of adrenline that he gets knowing he could die at any second.  And his attitude could get them all killed.

And while the plot may seem simple Bigelow draws us in and makes us a part of the movie.  She does so in many different ways.  On way she does this is in showing us the smaller things that you would notice if you were there, such as a shot of a shell casing falling to the ground in slow motion, while we wait to see if the bullet finds its mark.  And sometimes she does it by showing us nothing at all. 

Towards the end of the movie there is a scene that I absolutely love.  As the unit heads into the dark to try and hunt down a bomber we go with them, but instead of us seeing everything with a nice, unnatural blue tint, we are actually left in the dark for several long seconds.  During this time all we can do is rely on our hearing, just as the soldiers must rely on their remaining senses.  Then slowly we see a little bit of light, which grows brighter as we come out of the darkness, until finally we can see the unit again as they head into a more well lit area.  I applaud Bigelow for this, as most filmmakers would have rather shown you what was going on through lighting than let us experience it for ourselves.  (Personally I wish more movies would use total darkness in such a way)  And this is just one of many scenes in which you experience what is going on rather than having it shown to you.

I'll be honest at times I didn't want to feel like I was there, because some of the movie is so intense and hard to watch.  But it would be a cheat to only let us experience the good moments, we have to understand the loss and pain that they feel as well.  And maybe that's one reason this movie works so well, it gives us the whole picture, not just the good parts.  The Hurt Locker may not be the happiest movie going experience this year, but it certainly is one of the best.

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