And the Oscar Goes to:
The Hurt Locker, 2009
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Ralph Fiennes
Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner, The House) is assigned the new team leader of a U. S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit in the Iraq war after an explosive killed former leader, Staff Sergeant Matthew Thompson (Guy Pearce) early on. James’ team includes J. T. Sanborn (Anthomy Mackie, Detroit) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), and almost immediately it shows us the contrast in opinions between James and his team.
The characterisation of James throughout is brilliant; as is its complete contrast to Sanborn: Sanborn wants to go home and have a family and an easy life, whereas James cannot cope with the mundane lifestyle of a civilian. This pushes James to act unprofessionally while in service (such as taking his headset off and ignoring the advice to flee while working on a bomb) as he actively seeks the thrill of war. This use of polar opposites brilliantly shows off the split opinions of war; from those who love it and those who hate it. Renner also plays his role to perfection, too. Finding a superb balance between a reckless leader, a loving ex-husband and father and a friend to some of the local Baghdad residents, Renner works them seamlessly into one character without it feeling false.
Much like Moonlight, however, The Hurt Locker suffers somewhat from not having the strict A-to-B plot progression cinemagoers have become accustomed to. With the plot simply being their wait to return home, and the bombs and challenges they face along the way. While the action and suspense is brilliantly done, this film relies on the characters to carry this film through (which they all do, brilliantly) rather than a traditional plot.
Unlike a large number of films which operate on a steady camera, The Hurt Locker chooses to utilise more of a roaming camera, as if it were actually filmed in the middle of a warzone. While not my favourite style of camera work, this did add an excellent element of realism to the film. It forced the film to come across as genuine rather than staged and that certainly helped with the Best Director and Best Film Editing Oscar wins.
Overall The Hurt Locker is a very powerful film with characters portraying differing opinions of war-life with beautifully shot scenes and intense bomb scenarios.
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Overall Rating: * * * ¼