The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008): USA

Reviewed by Rowan-George Smith.  Viewed at the Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara Film Festival.

In The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow directs Jeremy Renner and the dominantly male ensemble of unknown actors, in a very accurate depiction of the war in Iraq.  The graphic, insightful, tension-filled movie has earned Kathryn, an Oscar nomination for Achievement in Directing, and she is the first woman ever nominated in this category. The film has received eight more Oscar nominations, including an Oscar nod to Jeremy Renner for Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

Take note: This past Sunday, February 21, The Hurt Locker was the winner of 6 BAFTA Awards (the British equivalent of the Oscars), including Best Film, Best Screenplay (Original) and Achievement in Directing.

The film starts with an intriguing quote said by Chris Hedges, “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”  SFC William James (Jeremy Renner) is an adrenaline junkie, who is leader of an army bomb squad unit in the dangerous streets of Iraq.  He is totally devoted yet addicted to his work in this war, he’d rather continue fighting, than be with his wife and son he left back home.

Renner a bright young actor with an impressive acting resume is totally convincing and captivating as SFC William James.  He displays confidence, strength, command, and even compassion.  Renner shows off his broad range as an actor.  His standout performance in the film is subtle, compelling and authentic, you really begin to think this guy is in love with bombs.  His character can’t truly be happy unless he’s doing what he does best, diffusing bombs.  Anthony Mackie as Sgt. JT Sanborn and Brian Geraghty as Specialist Owen Eldridge co-star.

Kathryn Bigelow was honored a few weeks ago at the Santa Barbara Film Festival and received the Director of the Year Award at the Lobero Theatre.  She shot The Hurt Locker in Jordan and interesting to note, Iraqi refugees were used as extras in film too.

Mark Boal wrote the screenplay and he brilliantly mapped out the direction of the story with great dialogue and very detailed action.

The Hurt Locker is effective in that when you leave the theatre, you are left with your own opinions of the Iraq war.   There is no political agenda or hidden message.  The film simply focuses on the emotional toll the characters endure and how they live and react in the given circumstance they find themselves in.

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