Kathryn Bigelow is a film director best known for her 1991 surfer heist movie Point Break. In 2009, she became the first woman to win an Oscar for best director at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards for her gritty war drama The Hurt Locker. That year, the film won 6 awards including Best Film and at the box office took just shy of $50m off of a budget of $15m.
Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) is moved to become team leader of a bomb disposal team called EOD in Iraq in 2004. He is a reckless thrill-seeker, whose approach to bomb disposal causes tension among the rest of his team, notably Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie). During their tour of service they are attacked by insurgents, encounter mercenary ex-British military officers and all the while having to deal with a variety of bombs.
The first thing to say about The Hurt Locker, is that it is tense. We’re not talking the kind of by-the-numbers thriller tense, but ‘seat-of-your-pants I’m genuinely scared for my own safety’ type tension. By setting the film in Iraq during the war, Bigelow is able to put our protagonists in a series of horribly over-bearing situations. Combine this with her decision to kill off some major actors at various points really gives the film an unpredictable slant. You literally never know who is going to die and how. It’s a bold decision and one that pays off beautifully.
The cast are exceptional in a film that has a truthful, almost documentary style to it. The decision to cast Renner and Mackie was inspired, because at the time neither was a particularly famous name or face, which allowed them the breath to act without the pressure of expectation, and my word do they breathe. You may notice that Renner started to appear in some big films in 2011 and 2012, well that can be attributed to his performance in The Hurt Locker, followed up by his excellent turn in The Town.
After only a short time you forget that you’re watching a fictional film and are engaged and engrossed with every tense minute, whether its watching the main characters watching a sand hut, or whether it’s Renner dealing with a local DVD salesman. Every aspect of The Hurt Locker draws you in and won’t let go until you’ve been scared, thrilled and completely ‘blown away’ by the action. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.