Friday, 16 April 2010

57. THE HURT LOCKER - 2009

The most recent winner of the Best Picture winner comes about a third of the way into our countdown. I therefore do not regard this film as a poor winner, but it is also not one of the greatest of all time.

‘The Hurt Locker’ is a film about a bomb disposal unit in Iraq as they come to the end of their tour of duty. It is largely not a story as such with the traditional beginning, middle and end, but more of a pastiche of scenes from the war.

There are some amazing things about this film. Bigelow really does give us an insight into what life may be like in this type of war. Having never been in Iraq I have no idea if this is a faithful depiction, but it certainly shows the war being entirely different from WWI and II, and there are some extremely tense scenes in the film. I am especially impressed by how the film deals with how the combat involved the residents of the country. The soldiers have to deal with bomb disposing and during this a local comes to talk to them and they have no idea if the local is an enemy or just a curious bystander.

There is an excellent scene towards the end of the film where an Iraqi has a bomb attached to him and the unit needs to disarm it. The scene is perfectly tense without being at all contrived.

The film contains largely a cast of unknowns, but does include appearances from Guy Pierce and Ralph Fiennes, for a bit of box office pull. How these actors are dealt with is perfect. They are both involved in one event in the film in which they are central without dominating. Jeremy Renner plays the lead role in the film and received an acting nomination for his performance. His performance is fine, but not really Oscar worthy, as the film is mainly about the events rather than the people. The film is a technical triumph with brilliant cinematography and it really does feel like each shot was carefully considered and planned.

So why not higher? There were a few things that I really did not like about this film. I felt that it would have been perfect as a serious of scenes about the life of a group of soldiers in Iraq, which I think is what the film wanted it to be. But then suddenly it was as if the audience were supposed to suddenly care about the characters. We know very little about Renner’s character but then suddenly we are forced though a series of scenes when he is back in America with his girlfriend and child and we are supposed to care about this. I feel that this cheapens the film somewhat and makes it more like other flashy American films.

There are a couple of unlikely events in the film as well. The boy who is buys DVDs from is later found dead which is a most unlikely coincidence, and I find it hard to believe that trained soldiers would be outwitted by a couple of locals hiding in a derelict house in the desert, but I can overlook this. I can’t overlook the way that a couple of scenes turn the film from an extremely tense and gripping piece of art cinema to an over-sentimental blockbuster type movie.

I was definitely pleased that ‘The Hurt Locker’ beat ‘Avatar’. I though ‘Avatar’ was a pretty film about nothing, but I wished that ‘The Hurt Locker’ had been truly what it clearly set out to be, as there was potential for it to be amazing.

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