Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Oscar Watch: The Hurt Locker

I had intended to see the Hurt Locker way back in October but due to busy schedules and a very limited release date I was forced to wait. Thankfully now it's out on DVD and I was able to finally sit down and watch it over the weekend. Now I have been reading and hearing for months about how great the movie is and how it captures something about the war in Iraq that has previously gone unnoticed. With this much hype how could it possibly live up to all of my expectations? Thankfully, it did that and more. Now the Hurt Locker does not pontificate or harass the audience about the folly of war. Instead it gives us more of an intimate portrait of 36 days in the life of a Bomb disposal unit in Iraq. It is intense and I think captures the tone of that war perfectly.As I stated above the film follows 3 soldiers in a bomb disposal unit in Iraq. There is Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) who is the cautious but precise second in command. He serves as a bit of a Mother Hen to the crew. Especially for Spc. Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), who is the most green of the bunch. Through a good portion of the film he is feeling guilty for not acting quickly enough to save the life of a fellow soldier, which causes him trouble as the film develops. Last but certainly not least SSG James (Jeremy Renner), the seemingly cool headed and slightly gonzo leader of the team. The reality is you would have to be at least a little crazy to do what these guys do. James, at first seems like an overconfident hero-type but as the film goes on you can see that he is just as fragile as the rest of them.Director Katheryn Bigelow does a great job of building the intensity as these guys are constantly tested by low-tech bombs placed in clever ways to maximize the damage. They show how easily paranoia can take over when it is not clear who your enemy is. She really captures the tone of being in the Suck and how it can shape your worldview, especially a scene near the end where one of the characters is standing in a grocery store back in the states and he is looking at the rows and rows of cereal and you start to get a sense of how different and strange it is to be home after going through hell. The pacing was great in the film and it was fun to see all of these big stars in small roles. But I was scratching my head at the bare bones part for Evangeline Lilly as James' estranged wife. It felt like they shot a whole lot more footage with this storyline and then cut it to about two scenes. I swear she says about two words in the whole movie. These scenes feel a little off and disconnected from the picture, but I think that may be the point. The other big name guys who have teenie-tiny parts are Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce. They are small scenes but they are memorable. Overall I really enjoyed this flick it is tense and smart and Renner really does a great job balancing this very tough film. There are some truly great directors up this year but I will certainly be satisfied to see Bigelow walk home with the golden man.So just for a re-cap of the ten nominees for Best Picture, other than Hurt Locker, we have reviews for: Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, District 9 and Up In the Air will be posted shortly. You can check those out when you click on one of the above titles. I had hoped to see Up, Precious, A Serious Man, An Education & the Blind Side before the Oscar telecast but that doesn't seem likely at this point. But I welcome you guys to share your thoughts on some of these films especially the ones we were unable to provide reviews for.

Grade: 4 Buckets

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