The Hurt Locker

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Strange Days), the Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker is a full-throttle body shock of a movie. It gets inside you like a virus, puts your nerves in a blender, and twists your guts into a Gordian knot. Set during the last month in the year-long rotation of a three-man U.S. Army bomb squad stationed in Baghdad, it may be the only film made about Iraq that gives us a true sense of what it feels like to be on the front lines. It’s an experiential war movie, but also a psychologically astute one, matching its intricate sensory architecture with an equally detailed map of the modern soldier’s psyche. The Hurt Locker belongs to that subset of Bigelow’s work devoted to the ethos of hyper-masculine communities and the men who emerge as their leaders. Staff Sergeant William James (the brilliant Jeremy Renner) is one such character—a secular god with a penchant for reckless bravado who inspires equal amounts of envy and contempt in the men under his command. Some have heralded Bigelow’s film as an “apolitical” war movie, which is really a way of saying that it arrives mercifully free of ham-fisted polemics. Instead of setting out to prove a point, it seeks to immerse us in an environment—something Bigelow does as well as any director at work today.
July 10-16, 2009

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