The Hurt Locker (2008)

220px-HLposterUSA2Being ignorant of the term “Hurt Locker,” I did a reasonable thing and looked it up. According to IMDb:

To put someone in a “hurt locker” is to physically mess someone up, badly. It is roughly synonymous with causing someone “a world of pain.” According to the movie’s official website, “In Iraq it is soldier vernacular to speak of explosions, as sending you to the hurt locker.”

Well, that about sums it up, and it does so, beautifully by getting to the core energy that pulses through this film. It gets dicey and intense when these highly trained individuals are put into the most volatile of situations. It doesn’t get more volatile than bomb detail, and how they maintain composure in such circumstances is a miracle, a testament to grit and willpower. That’s not to say they don’t go through their own moments of turmoil. How could you not, at least at some juncture?

It struck me that this film does not feel like a political statement, even less so than Bigelow’s other war epic Zero Dark Thirty. In a sense, that would be a major disservice to the men who fight, by taking all the attention off of them and instead placing it on agendas and politics. However, all of that is left to the politicians, and we simply are given a very small taste of what those fighting the War on Terror experience. Can we fully comprehend it? No, but at least now we have a better idea of how post-traumatic stress disorder can develop. The constant strain that these people are going through takes its toll physically and emotionally. Yet they still push through their tours in order to do the job that has been handed to them. They brave a world of suicide bombers and ambiguity that could quickly send you into the hurt locker. In that way, it reminds me of a modern take on Battle of Algiers, because not everything is as clear-cut as we would like it to be.

The Hurt Locker follows Bravo Company during the tour of duty. Their first disposal expert (Guy Pearce) meets with tragedy and his buddies are forced to welcome a new member to their team, Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner). He hasn’t disarmed 873 bombs for nothing, but he maintains such a streak by being very cavalier in his conduct. He’s a maverick, a man who will unflinchingly ditch all communication in order to focus on the task at hand. He’s a bit of a loose cannon and that’s not always the best type of personality for such a tightly knit group. They have to be if they want to survive since such behavior can be the difference between life and death. There’s a camaraderie and a rapport that builds over time, but before that he causes his compatriots to squirm more than once, and when they squirm we’re positively crawling out of our skin.

Shot in Jordan, quite close to the real-life locales, there is a gritty and raw quality to how Kathryn Bigelow frames the world with the help of cinematographer Barry Ackroyd. It manages to be personal and unsettling all at once. In comparison, it’s invariably striking how stagnant American life is when James returns home.That’s potentially a good thing, but does it mean that we’re taking life for granted, or living eternally thankful for each day that we still have breath in our lungs? That’s what The Hurt Locker does. It gives us a deeper respect for these men and a deeper appreciation for life.

4.5/5 Stars

Memento (2000)

6c3e2-memento_posterDirected by Christopher Nolan and starring Guy Pierce, this thriller has an interesting narrative that stars in descending order, simultaneously goes in ascending order, and then meets in the middle. Leonard is a man whose wife was murdered and he wants to find the culprit. However, he has short term memory loss so he must use Polaroid pictures and tattoos to help himself remember. He talks to a policeman on the phone about a case he recalls. He meets the man Teddy and also gets involved with a woman who wants his help after her boyfriend was killed. However  Leonard makes his own truth and when reality is revealed to him, he will not accept it. The story meets and so the audience must come to realize this is in fact true. I feel the storytelling style alone is intriguing because it is so different and it truly makes us think. Nolan made another such film in Inception 10 years later.

4/5 Stars

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce, and a great supporting cast, the film takes place in Los Angeles in 1953 where the police force is trying to get rid of crime. Pearce is the promising newcomer who will do whatever it takes to move up. Spacey on the other hand is the technical adviser a cop show and makes money on the side supplying a gossip journalist. Crowe is simply a hardened strong man. Despite their mutual dislike for each other, they must ultimately work together to uncover the mystery behind the murders at the Night Owl Cafe. Their investigation leads them nearer than they ever expected. In a heated finale they must fight for justice while struggling to stay alive. Although quite violent, this film has a good period setting, and the interesting story is reminiscent of classic film-noir.

4.5/5 Stars