Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Hurt Locker

Shot in a ragged documentary style, The Hurt Locker offers a riveting and distressing look at conditions “on the ground” in post-invasion Iraq, and it’s worth seeing for that reason alone. It follows a trio of bomb squad experts as they move from assignment to assignment, both in Bagdad and out in the desert. One is a seasoned veteran, another is a young recruit gripped by thoughts of his own death and counting the days until their rotation is over. The third, played by Jeremy Renner, is a new arrival to the team who combines enormous expertise with an unconventional and often reckless approach to his job that repeatedly places his cohorts at risk.

The film has the obligatory scenes of off-duty bonding, with fist-fights and bourbon, and there are touches of contact with families back home. One extended sequence takes place in the desert, where the trio meet up with another unit and get embroiled in a firefight. But for the most part the focus remains tense, urban, and narrow, and the film eventually flags a little, becoming merely a character study rather than a tightly-knit story of men under duress in the field, as Renner leads his two comrades into escapades of startling and almost unbelievable willfulness.

See The Hurt Locker for the atmosphere. Then, for a deeper and more complex tale of men at war in the Middle East (or anywhere else) see The Messenger.

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