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Boom, Boom, Pow with 'The Hurt Locker'
Iraq War actioner a chilling thrill
Brian Orndorf (briano)     Print Article 
Published 2009-06-27 05:47 (KST)   
The prospect of another laborious Iraq War film is perhaps about as welcome as a sharp stick in the eye. While a vital subject for discussion, Hollywood has managed to homogenize the lengthy Middle East affair, expelling too much effort to register as concerned rather than determined.

Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" looks to amp up the Iraq experience through a foot-long, rusty needle shot of adrenaline, assuming a vigorous action movie mentality to cover global affairs. "Hurt Locker" is a superb achievement that not only constructs some of the finest suspense set pieces of the year, but manages to thread in compelling, wartime psychological issues.

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After losing a member of their team to a roadside bomb, a US Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, comprised of Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), brings Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) aboard to help continue the job of clearing out numerous explosive devices throughout Iraq.

A danger junkie, James runs his own brand of nervy bomb detection, often brashly running towards certain death to test himself -- to feel something while performing what amounts to a suicidal mission. Faced with 38 days until their tour is over, the trio travels around the country responding to calls, only to face their worst fears while staring into the face of certain death.

Bigelow, best known as the director of 쏱oint Break and 쏶trange Days, approaches 쏦urt Locker like the ultimate suspense piece. Working with a script by journalist Mark Boal, Bigelow is on the prowl for cracking screen tension through the eyepiece of reality, pitting man against explosive in the center of the Iraq inferno.

쏦urt Locker plays right into her wheelhouse, presenting numerous opportunities to inflame the audience with tense depictions of bomb-defusing heroics. It셲 a frightening cocktail of life and death that establishes itself as the motivation for the James character, who, faced with obligatory domestic tranquility back home, would rather test himself with explosives, addicted to the rush of it all.

For the first hour, 쏦urt Locker is nearly a road movie, following the soldiers as they meet up with military officials and mercenaries (cameos of Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, Evangeline Lilly, and David Morse), marching into treacherous situations that require a veiled perspective of morality.

Here, Bigelow finds a particularly kinetic vein to bleed, backed by strong, zoom-heavy camerawork from Barry Ackroyd. Pushing the audience into the line of fire, Bigelow unflinchingly describes the daily schedule of fighting a faceless menace. The EOD squad not only confronts numerous bombs, but also stern Iraqi onlookers, who contribute to a mood of paranoia that further clouds the rules of engagement.

The second half of the picture decelerates toward introspection, as the men struggle to fend off madness, with James bonding with an Iraqi boy to cultivate a feeling of comfort. It셲 a tough prospect to go from pure suspense to sludgy psychological study.

Bigelow decompresses 쏦urt Locker with tremendous care, but scenes late in the game tend to run on longer than necessary. Chalk it up to love, since Bigelow shows such admiration for these complicated men and their fragility, stuffed firmly behind their military training.

The third act has the characters confronting their harsh Iraq realities, and while it fails to provide the same electric charge of the first 60 minutes, 쏦urt Locker glides to an appropriate, respectful conclusion.

Tired of Iraq War movies?

쏦urt Locker provides more immediacy and less sermons than anything that셲 come before. While other pictures ached for profundity, 쏷he Hurt Locker hurdles over stuffy political commentary to provide harrowing verisimilitude through astonishing examples of precarious wartime routine.

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©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Brian Orndorf

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