Gautaman Bhaskaran's Review: The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker says in the boldest of letters that war is a drug, may well be seen as a balm to all those men and women tortured by the recklessness of some nations.Updated: Mar 06, 2010, 10:49 IST
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty.
Direction: Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow's multiple Oscar-nominated The Hurt Locker comes as some sort of antidote for George Bush's cowboy antics in Iraq. The film, which says in the boldest of letters that war is a drug, may well be seen as a balm to all those men and women tortured by the recklessness of some nations. It may be a movie about war, but Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal score their best points by showing us the warmth that still endears in the human heart for another soul. There are some extremely poignant moments in the film that can perhaps swing the Academy votes for Bigelow's direction and her work itself.
Jeremy Renner as Staff Sergeant William James leads a three-man unit in Baghdad defusing treacherously ticking bombs and terrifying tension. James spells recklessness, and his team - Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) - is annoyed and frightened by their chief's method and madness. Hands on and wild, James does not let the remote-controlled "auto-boot" probe suspicious packets and dumps. He himself walks into danger and uses his hands to kill bombs. At times, he removes his heavy body armour and even throws away his headphones that keep him connected to his team standing at a distance. There is one instance when he tries and fails to save an Iraqi fully strapped with explosives. Sanborn and Eldridge are angry at his daredevilry that they know can destroy them. Yet, they cannot feel inspired by his guts.
But where The Hurt Locker really scores is when it reveals in a series of scenes how caring James is. He is completely shattered when he finds an Iraqi boy, who has been selling him pirated film disks, dead in a bomb-making factory. His body is stuffed with explosives, and he had apparently died while being turned into a human bomb. A couple of early sequences show his fondness for the boy. Later, James' home visit tells us about his affection for ex-wife and toddler son, when his seemingly hard exterior turns tender.
In some ways, The Hurt Locker defies the conventional narrative pattern of cinema. It could well have been a series of vignettes, strung together by a theme - the war in Baghdad. Yet, Bigelow's work must be seen as a power-packed punch that lands right on your face. War is evil, as evil as drug, and its sheer futility hits you when an innocent man is blown to nothing, when a lad lies in a cold, bloody mess, his insides filled with metal.
Strictly speaking, The Hurt Locker is pitted against James Cameroon's 3D alien drama, Avatar. In this fight between the David of a Bigelow and her former husband, the Goliath of a Cameroon, one never knows whether the Jewish fantasy, Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds", will net the Best Picture Oscar on the big night at Los Angeles.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has been writing on the Oscars for many years.)