Hurt Locker

About 10 minutes into the film there is an explosion. Gravel on the road rises up in slow motion as if it were a stolid crazy monster that had been awoken from its sleep. You see small freckles of dust and stone fly upward slowly as the music mutes to a deafening hum. You feel as if it is bits and pieces of your own gut that are being splattered slowly with purpose on the screen. This is the closest most of us lucky bastards will ever get to an explosion.

Hurt Locker is the story of guys in a bomb squad in Iraq that are primarily responsible for defusing IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device) that litter the parched landscape from city to the barren outskirts. However, that doesn't begin to explain the adrenaline-rush you get within 15 minutes in this film that you don't watching 10 of your average super-hero infused Hollywood blockbusters.

Jeremy Renner is Sgt. William James the man responsible for leading the diffusing operations. He is addicted to danger and doesn't really know of a life outside this theater. He does a powerful, moving role that suddenly makes you realize the kind of people involved in this war and what they go through. If you think your job sucks then think about trying to cut away an IED form a man who has it tied across his body with locks but changes his mind (or did he?).

Hurt Locker starts brilliantly and builds a convincing, entertaining and powerful portrayal. Alas, the end isn't as good as the beginning and that may be an unintentional comment on the war itself. The film's its focus in its final episode where James decides to take matters into his own hands. This violates the fundamental integrity of the film. However, this is the only blemish on an otherwise brilliant film.

The lone civilian scene at the end of the film shows James trying to choose a serial from the ocean of serial boxes in a grocery store. His confusion and dislocation say more about the after-effects of war and the inevitable, incalculable co-lateral damage then reams of articles written since the war.

And this film is the closest anyone will ever get to the horrors of wars, specially in the middle-east, with their peculiar blurring of opposition lines. Kathryn Bigelow, who has not directed anything so good since Point Blank and nothing so powerful ever, does a phenomenal job of getting the mood just about right.

As 2009 winds down this film should certainly show up as one of the best of 2009 if not the very best.

Incidentally, the guy in the first shot is Guy Pearce who seems to get no love. He is brilliant in his little cameo. The weird thing is that we were watching The Proposition just the day before and lamenting the waste of such a fine actor and there he was dying in the very first scene in the film.

Hurt Locker is a must watch for almost anyone as it flies low and keeps the politics out. It is a smart action film that lets you conclude where the hurt is.