The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigalow, is a powerful and intense thriller and a scarily accurate representation of a bomb disposal unit stationed in Iraq during the Iraq War. The opening scene featuring a cameo by Guy Pierce is genuine suspense, and a jolting revelation into the conditions the soldiers were forced to risk their lives in. Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) takes leadership control of the EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) team, which includes Sergeant J.T Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty). The role of the team is to secure the perimeter of an established or suspected bomb location. James’ role as team leader is to wear the protective military suit, approach the site and dismantle the explosive device, while his team scopes out the perimeter for possible sniper attacks on their often isolated position. Things get heated when Sanborn and Eldridge disapprove of James’ ‘careless’ techniques and disrespect for established protocol. In a series of stunning sequences, where the team is met with a more deadly situation than the last, the trio slowly begins to bond with the men finally accepting James as their leader. This applies in particular to the sniper ambush which leaves the men trapped under fire in the middle of the desert.
Jeremy Renner’s heartfelt performance as James is outstanding, as the pain and emotion of the American soldier trapped in this war oozes from his body. He is cocky and arrogant in the line of duty, but also shows care for his fellow team members and succumbs to tears when he accidentally shoots Eldridge in the leg. It was great to see him receive an Oscar Nomination for his lead. He receives great support from Anthony Mackie. There are short cameo appearances from Guy Pierce, David Morse, Ralph Fiennes and Evangeline Lilly, but the film belongs to the trio of relatively unknown actors, who bring this gritty tale to life. Another fantastic feature of this film, which was also used by Fernando Meirelles to bring City of God’s barren environment to life, is the hand-held camera. Tracking the characters as they clear warehouses, and offers point-of-view shots when they approach combat situations. It is raw, energetic and ultimately incredibly suspenseful. Kathryn Bigalow is favorite to win Best Director at the Oscars for her stellar work in telling this absorbing tale, and this 'near-perfect film' should also challenge for the Best Picture Oscar with Inglourious Basterds and Up in the Air.
Overall: 4 1/2 Stars