Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is a sure fire Award season contender and the most intense action movie of the summer. This is not a movie that is focused on plot or storytelling. Shot in documentary style using handheld cameras, it is a movie that is focused on putting us in the shoes of the people at war, and that is why we care about them – because they can die at any second.

The movie, written from a script by Mark Boal that is loosely based on his real life experience following a bomb squad, focuses on three people that work within a U.S. Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit disarming bombs in Iraq. Those three people, played by actors who the average moviegoer will have never heard of before, are Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner), Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty).

All three characters have distinct personalities. It is a pleasure to witness the conflict between James and Sanborn. Renner’s character is the cocky type who approaches his job of defusing bombs about as cool as you can. Sanborn, on the other hand, is a vigilant, by-the-book leader who is not too polite to share his disapproval of James’ methods. Eldridge is the quiet one in the bunch. He is the nervous guy, always thinking about the possibility of death.

Even though three leads aren’t big names, the movie does feature a variety of cameos from well-known actors such as Guy Pearce (Memento), Ralph Fiennes (The Reader), and Evangeline Lilly (ABC’s Lost). The acting in the movie is top-notch, with all three leads turning in great performances. Renner gives a career-making performance in the lead role, while Mackie plays the perfect foil to his character. Watching all three of these men work together and bond over time is a joy to watch. You couldn’t ask for better casting here.
The great thing about this movie is that it is so effortless in getting us to care about the men involved. It realizes that the people don’t have to bear their feelings to each other to gain our sympathy. Why does the character’s brother have to be dead in order for us to care about if he lives or dies? Why does his father have to be a former soldier to gain our respect? Simply by putting these basically good people in life or death situations, we care for them instantly.

It is so refreshing to see a war film that isn’t trying to send some universal message, or trying to preach to the American people. This is simply a movie about the soldiers, because when people think about war they should think of the men who are risking their lives day in and day out. The result is an experience is as good as any action war movie I’ve ever seen. Bigelow’s spot on direction and the great sound effects provide us with situations so intense that your heart rate is constantly flying during this movie.


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