Monday, March 8, 2010

The Hurt Locker Sweeps The Oscars

So last night The Hurt Locker won six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.  I'm glad, because, to me, it was the best picture of 2009.  The win for Best Director also has a historical significance because Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman to win the award.  If you haven't seen the movie, it's worth your time.  Here's my original review:

Friday, August 14, 2009

War is a Drug

Or so we're told at the beginning of The Hurt Locker, the newest film from director Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Near Dark). Personally, I think war is an affliction. But I get the point the movie is trying to make. It follows a three man U.S. army unit in Iraq which has the unenviable mission of dismantling improvised explosive devices (IEDs) before they explode. Jeremy Renner plays Staff Sargeant James, the team leader, who actually dismantles the bombs while his teammates, played by Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, cover him from enemy fire. James is quickly drawn to danger such that we're not sure if he is an adrenaline junkie, crazy, or simply has a deathwish. He keeps a box under his bed containing parts from all the IEDs, numbering somewhere in the 800s, he's dismantled, opining that he likes to touch things that could have killed him. I imagine this is where the title of the film comes from. [If anyone else has a different take on the title, please enlighten me.]

There's been a lot of chatter about the fact that Bigelow is a female director, yet has a knack for making very male action films. No doubt there is a lot of machismo in The Hurt Locker and her earlier work Point Break. I suggest that Bigelow's films are meditations on what makes men tick. Most women, wartime or not, wouldn't release stress by drinking and punching each other in the stomach. That's a very male thing to do. The movie also addresses why some men go back into service even when their tours are over and they can stay home with their families. Surely preventing bombs from exploding and taking the lives of your comrades is may be more fulfilling than cleaning out your gutters and shopping for cereal. Then there are men like Mackie's character Sargeant Sanborn who approaches his job with care and is counting down the days when he can leave, hoping to live so that he can start a family and do the "normal" things James finds overwhelming.

The Hurt Locker is one of the best films I've seen this year, second only to Goodbye Solo. [Both Renner and Mackie were nominated for the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards.] Although they are very different stories with very different tones and pacing, they both deal with the prospect of death and what happens when we can and cannot find purpose in our lives.

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