Saturday, July 25, 2009

Movie Review: "The Hurt Locker"

Thank you for checking out my review of "The Hurt Locker." Lately we've been getting a few Iraq war movies that have been generally disappointing. "The Hurt Locker" attempts to rectify these past attempts to make one see the horrors while giving a somewhat fair view of it, showing that soldiers face incredible danger, both in psychological and physical aspects. The story is about three soldiers in 2004 Baghdad, Iraq, who scout and disable IED (Improvised Explosive Devices). After the team leader of Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) is killed by said explosive, they are assigned new team leader Staff Sgt. Will James, a very gung-ho and risky soldier, who faces threats head-on. Throughout the film, we see how these soldiers are forced to cope with the danger they face.

What I Liked

It's hard to make a movie create real tension. I have to say that I never felt so much tension in this film than did with another in a long time. Not even most horror movies made me stay at the edge of my seat like this did. Every moment the soldiers were on the battlefield I felt the paranoia that the soldiers felt. Anything and everything was possible, and danger waited to strike at the perfect time. The fact that it was possible to connect with the paranoia that the soldiers felt was even harder.

The characters all had very profound depth to them. Each character is given proper development through history, emotions, and their own views on death. This gave each character their own uniqueness as well, both in attitudes and experiences. James is shows more concern with others than himself, almost as if he doesn't care about his life anymore. Sanborn is the portrayed as a man who will fight for his life because it is all he really has. Eldridge tries to understand the "ambiguity" of dying or killing to live, only being able to express this to friend and doctor Col. Cambridge (Christian Camargo), who has an over-simplistic view of the war due to his "desk job" position. These different personalities create an even spectrum of ideas on death, although all still fear it regardless.

The direction in this film was spectacular. The shots in this film gave it a documentary feel to it, drawing you into the action while being able to let the audience member get the full feel of what is being portrayed. Thankfully, despite being hand held most of the time, the camera is generally steady and never out of focus. While some shots are grainy to help give it that gritty, realistic feel, there are some shots that are shown in crystal clarity to allow one to see things the way it should be. Right in the beginning, we see the devastation of an IED, showing the raw power of what one can do. It's impossible to describe this shot. It was that well done.

Regarding cinematography, the film felt like it was in war-torn Baghdad. I can only give an over simplistic description of it being desolate, in ruins, etc. All I can say is that there was a very good attention to detail in the surroundings and locales.

The dialogue in this film was also well done. The dialogue was believable almost all of the time and darkly humorous at different points. It came across as "self-comfort" dialogue, which I would expect from soldiers experiencing such tension as they are.

The acting was very strong in this movie. Nothing felt over or under acted and the actors delivered their lines near perfectly, except for a couple of lines with some flat delivery.

What I Didn't Like

If there was one thing in this film that truly bugged me, it was the believability that James would still be in the military after all the things he pulls off. I will simply say that is character is not "orthodox" in his actions and approach to solving problems. It seems that, except for an anger moment from Sanborn, he experienced no disciplinary action at all. Granted, this is a film, but at least make him experience SOMETHING for the trouble he causes.

Regarding the direction, there was one slow-mo shot that felt out of place. It involves a bullet falling to the ground after a shot is taken (and I will not say who was involved, as this was an integral part of the movie). I expect it may have been something to generate more tension, but it just felt unnecessary.

What Can Be a Mixed Bag

I am related to several people who have been in the military, but I know next to nothing about it. However, there are a few continuity things that may bug people who have been in the military regarding weaponry and armor. Because of my lack of knowledge, I was fine with it. For those who can spot the continuity and factual errors of said things, this may bug you pretty badly.


I had been waiting to see "The Hurt Locker" when it was first released. Having finally seen it, I can say it was well worth the wait. Probably the best film I've seen this year, I'm praying it gets an Oscar nomination for "Best Picture." This is probably the best Iraq war movie made to date (and it will probably stay the top film for a long time).

"The Hurt Locker" is a powerful film that puts audience members in the boots of the danger and paranoia that US soldiers face and experience while still keeping a strong narrative and well crafted characters.


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