Thursday, January 14, 2010

DVD Review (without a DVD): The Hurt Locker

I really wanted to see The Hurt Locker. I actually missed my chance on a plane (yes, it was showing on a plane in October!) because I fell asleep too soon. And when it was released this week, I already had my quota of DVDs from Netflix and want to see them all, so I used something I hadn't really taken advantage of before - Amazon Video on Demand via Roku. It was $3.99 but I got to see it on my TV when I wanted to, the day it was released. All movies need to have this available - lots don't, the digital rights are tied up somehow.

Anyway, perhaps because I was so thrilled that something slightly complicated worked so easily, I really, really enjoyed The Hurt Locker. It's been out in the world for so long that I'd heard good things, but this was the first way I actually had access to it - it was nominated for LAST year's Independent Spirit awards (it was first shown at the Venice Film Festival in 2008!). Most people know it's about a group of soldiers in Iraq, and directed by Kathryn Bigelow (James Cameron's ex-wife) and that it's on lots of best-of lists. That was all I knew when I saw it. Here's a bit more: Jeremy Renner (I loved him on the now canceled "The Unusuals", he's on the right side of the photo) is the lead actor playing a bomb tech brought in to lead a unit. He's a bit of a loose cannon, though it's not explained why, which is a nice change. He's just been very successful bomb tech (obviously, he's still alive) and has used his methods of basically not being afraid to get him there. The unit he's joined, with Anthony Mackie (left in the photo), who likes to follow all protocols and make sure everyone is very safe (hard to fault him there - they're in Iraq disarming bombs) and Brian Geraghty who seems to be suffering a lot of stress, possibly because he works with bombs. The trio is called in to disarm IEDs and remove explosive things from all over Baghdad. It's got to be the worst job in the army - so stressful and if you mess up, you'll die, and likely you'll kill all the people around you. But Renner has found an inner strength to survive doing the job, and his team struggles to find their own methods to do the job.

There are lots of smaller scenes that have little to do with their bomb job that give depth to the story of the war, without ever mentioning the reasons, the patriotism, the enemies, the allies, etc. In reality, this story could take place during a war waged for any reason in almost any place. Obviously, it takes place in a city in a desert, but all the specifics of the war are left out of the story. Our bomb trio meets up with a group of British soldiers, but the only thing to identify them as from an allied force is that they have British accents, and mention they're on the same side. I really liked this fact about the movie. It's about the soliders, not the war. Yes, you're scared almost every time you see them go out to disarm a bomb, and most of the tension of the film comes from that idea, and not the overwhelming stress of winning or losing the war, but rather a small, specific, extremely important task. The directing of the movie is terrific, giving lingering views of everything they do without ever losing focus on the story. In addition, the acting is extremely capable, believable, and draws you in to care about each one.
Very good movie - go get the DVD. 5 of 5 stars/lambs
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