We've seen so many war movies right from The Bridge on the River Kwai to Letters from Iwo Jima. Why should we see another one? They always have the same things- gun firing, missile launching, explosions, airplane crashes, men crying and then dying. Why should we see this one? Proceed, and you'll find out.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and Screenwriter Mark Boal are the foundations of "The Hurt Locker." The screenplay is a director's bible. It gives him, her in this case, a story with which he can form a vision and then translate that vision onto the screen. Without such a strong screenplay, it would've been easy to term any war movie at this point of time, a cliche. Especially with Inglourious Basterds being the center of attraction this year. Mark Boal will be honoured with an Academy Award nomination for Writing Original Screenplay.
Kathryn Bigelow is simply brilliant, original and has directed this film with utmost care. She employs Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd's evergreen technique, the shaky camera technique. This, being the main reward of the film, gives the film a documentary feel which makes us wonder if what we're seeing is being displayed on the news. Background score is of low importance to her, its the sound effects that are sharp and pronounced, not of the explosions but things to which we pay minor importance, adding to its realistic nature. She uses big actors for cameos and blows them up when you're still glad to see them. Having won most of the precursor awards, its safe to say that she has already won the Best Director Oscar.
Although the film has no plot, it has an intelligible beginning and a pleasant ending. Its primary focus is on a bomb squad in Iraq that go around dismantling bombs. But we don't hear any bombs ticking, except the ones within us.
Sergeant First Class William James(Jeremy Renner) is the real man on the job who goes face to face with the bombs and defuses them. He is a reckless, carefree and free spirited bohemian. Renner embodies the character without the slightest noticeable effort. He is already a lock for the Oscar. This isn't the Sean penn, Daniel Day-Lewis or Russel Crowe kind of Oscar worthy performance. More like that of Richard Jenkins. There is no getting into character. He doesn't bring to screen something that'll make you go "Wow! Method Acting!." You'll see what you're supposed to see, what kind of a person Seargant William James is. And you'll believe it. This man isn't here to win oscars or steal the show, but to do his job with total sincerity.
Anthonie Mackie plays Sergeant JT Sanborn who communicates with William James, most of the time via radio during hazardous moments and gets treated as an unwanted accessory rather than as an accomplice. He doesn't like Sergeant James and holds a disapproving glare throughout the first half of the movie. Its intensity increases and ebbs away, but that is subtle acting at its finest. Towards the end he gets weak and breaks down, and that too, is subtle.
The Hurt Locker is an epic war film. One of the best films of 2009 and will get a Best Picture Nod from the Academy not just because its individual elements distinguish themselves independently but primarily because they all stand together, stronger.