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REVIEW: The Hurt Locker

It's about bombs--but certainly isn't one itself

The Hurt Locker.
Courtesy photo.

This may be one of the most overrated movies of the year. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I did. I just don’t think it lives up to the hype.

I went into it dreading yet another war movie. I remember seeing Platoon my senior year of high school and wondering – how many Vietnam movies will they continue to make? And how many movies will continue to borrow from Apocalypse, Now (Platoon borrowed in one of the weirdest ways – instead of Martin Sheen narrating, it was his son, Charlie).

Casting the unknown Jeremy Renner in Hurt Locker was a good move. He doesn’t bring a lot of baggage to the role as a man that defuses bombs in Baghdad. Speaking of baggage, he often considers his protective gear to be baggage, and recklessly takes it off before going to work (and I’m not sure why he doesn’t like utilizing those robots they have).

I never really figured out why that was, either. I certainly can understand how he gets antsy when he’s at home with his wife, instead of enjoying her company; and enjoying the fact that he’s not being shot at or bombed.

As much as I liked the casting of actors I wasn’t familiar with in key roles, it was a bit distracting to have a scene with people like Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes. But hey, if I could get them into my movie, I’d probably jump on that, too.

Director Kathryn Bigelow has done some disappointing films, and I’m happy this one works. It’s so bizarre to think that she’s going against her ex-husband (James Cameron) in the Best Director category.

I can’t believe Cameron does a film this year that is the biggest money maker of all-time. He got the most Oscar nominations, and he’s going against a woman that he used to be married to. Maybe he really is “king of the world.” I’m rooting for Bigelow to become the first female to win the award.

The movie was nominated for just as many Oscars as Avatar, but I’m guessing it won’t win as many. Renner would probably have an easier time actually trying to figure out how to defuse a real bomb than how to upset Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart).

The Hurt Locker employs a lot of interesting techniques. The hand-held cameras, which I thought took so much away from NYPD Blue, are used perfectly in this. They add a gritty element that amplifies this intense war picture.

The countdown of the 38 days Renner will be in Baghdad adds a nice touch of suspense, and a very interesting scene at the end of the film.

Since I’ve heard that Bigelow talked a lot with Cameron about this movie while it was being made, I wonder why he didn’t suggest any of the technical wizardry he’s so fascinated with; not 3D bomb debris coming at the audience, but perhaps seats that would shake when a bomb explodes (I believe they’re testing one in the Hazard Center Ultra-Star).

And on the subject of bombs exploding, what great facial expressions Renner has as he’s working on them. I kept thinking he’d grab a walkie-talkie and tell someone in his unit “I’ve learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.”

He did love his bombs. Or maybe he’s just a guy that does his job well, and it merely appears he’s cocky and loving every second of it. By the end, you’ll have an answer to that question, but the many layers he brings to this character are fascinating. And the fact that this is also a character study and not just a war picture, made me enjoy it more.

It’s also a war movie that deals with a job people do other than shooting guns. The last war movie that comes to mind that did that, was Gardens of Stone, from the '80s.

I was really disappointed in the third act, and surprised that most people didn’t have a problem with the direction they went with the story.

The movie is gripping and intense, but for those critics saying it’s one of the best war movies ever…well, it’s not even the best war movie this year. That would be The Messenger.

I think everyone will enjoy the fact that nobody is trying to push an anti-war or pro-military message on you. It’s just a movie about some intense individuals and what they do for a living.

It’s still in some theatres. If you haven’t seen it, get there soon.