Wednesday, January 20, 2010

DVD REVIEWS - The Hurt Locker

Every now and then, a movie slips by me completely unnoticed. I attribute this to my location, where the local theaters would rather show Did You Hear About The Morgans? for three weeks instead of bringing in something other than another romantic comedy that deserves more screen time. I am then forced to wait for the film to hit the DVD stands before I can see it for the first time, let alone review it. So I have determined not to let the local theaters dictate which movies I can review based on what they are showing and present to you the first installment of “DVD REVIEWS.”

“War is a drug.” From the opening quote by Chris Hedges, the audience is aware that they are not attending their typical war film. Then again, the war in Iraq isn’t a typical war and in many ways, it is a war of uncertainty. U.S. soldiers experience difficulties distinguishing enemies from the rest of the civilians and for Staff Sgt. William James (in an Oscar worthy performance by Jeremy Renner), whose main objective is to diffuse bombs, it seems that everything can be a potential IED. And yet, despite the fact that his job could literally kill him as it did to his predecessor, James approaches a bomb with an unbelievable air of confidence as if he enjoys the pressure brought on by the pressure of the situation.

James’ confidence borders on cockiness and doesn’t sit well with the members of his support squad, including Sgt. J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie). Sanborn follows the rules and procedures to a ‘T’ and he and his men are charged with protecting James as he focuses solely on diffusing the IED. Naturally, because he and his men are worried about potential enemy fire, Sanborn wants to do things by the book so that they can get in, get out, and live to see another day. Sanborn and his crew do no take kindly to James’ seemingly unnecessary risks and view his overconfidence as hazardous, not only to those around him but to James as well.

James does take risks in which the term “bold” would simply be an understatement. Walking straight into a bomb site without first examining the situation or disconnecting radio contact with Sanborn during a diffusing seem crazy as opposed to brave. And yet, he focuses so intently on the task at hand that even though he is extremely reckless, he still is able to perform his job with the precision of a heart surgeon. James is fully aware of the fact that these bombs need to be diffused and no one can do it better than he can and when he is at work, exhilaration and focus consume him and put him in a place where nothing else matters.

This juxtaposition of confidence in the face of a live IED builds an intense amount of suspense, proving that director Kathryn Bigelow knows exactly what she is doing. She makes the audience fear for the wellbeing of SSgt. James while anticipating one false move that will result in his demise. The tension created from every bomb diffusion is simply remarkable. What is amazing is the simplicity of the situation that generates such an intense reaction from the viewer. The hero is in danger and we fear for his life. Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, said that a bomb under a table that explodes creates shock, whereas a bomb under a table that goes unnoticed while the people at the table play cards creates suspense. Such it the case with The Hurt Locker, only this time, the bomb is under the ground, in a car, or strapped to an innocent citizen.

The Hurt Locker
has been deemed as one the defining movies of the decade. After finally witnessing it firsthand, that statement is not too far off in its assumption. Bigelow creates a level of suspense that hasn’t been touched since the films of Hitchcock and also masterfully combines that suspense with the story of an ambiguous man who seems to believe that the only way to live his life is to risk it every single day.