Acting under the cover of a Hollywood producer scouting a location for a science fiction film, a CIA agent launches a dangerous operation to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in 1979.
Navy S.E.A.L. sniper Chris Kyle's pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can't leave behind.
An intense portrayal of elite soldiers who have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world: disarming bombs in the heat of combat. When a new sergeant, James, takes over a highly trained bomb disposal team amidst violent conflict, he surprises his two subordinates, Sanborn and Eldridge, by recklessly plunging them into a deadly game of urban combat, behaving as if he's indifferent to death. As the men struggle to control their wild new leader, the city explodes into chaos, and James' true character reveals itself in a way that will change each man forever.Written by
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After Sanborn puts Thompson's dog tags into the box with Thompson's effects, another soldier puts a cover on the box. In the cut immediately following, Sanborn is looking into the box and the cover is not on. See more »
Military and war movies are problematic for me, at least modern-era ones; I wasn't in World War II or Vietnam but the post-Desert Storm era Army is a very well known quantity for me, and military movies set in this period (to include those set in the current Iraq / Afghanistan wars) almost always get some nagging thing wrong. Lieutenants and Captains don't call Colonels by their first names, and no one would ever wear a class-B wool sweater into a jungle at night, just to name two examples I've actually seen on screen in recent years.
"The Hurt Locker" slips up a bit, too, but to my surprise, I was able to forgive those missteps almost completely, because the movie on the whole is the most compelling war movie in many years, and just a great movie, period: terrifically acted, brilliantly conceived and directed, a work of true cinematic art. Like the committed professionals that it portrays, "The Hurt Locker" as a movie shows what movies are capable of when knowledgeable, experienced professionals are on top of their game.
"Saving Private Ryan" is generally regarded as THE modern war classic, and just about any picture set in war is going to draw at least a peripheral comparison to Steven Spielberg's flawed masterpiece, thanks to the still-detonating power of that film's master-class opening sequence, which took filmed combat to levels of never-before-seen verisimilitude. "The Hurt Locker" doesn't have that level of intensity, because it works on a smaller scale: the majority of the action is between individuals, not battalions. But there are extended sequences in "The Hurt Locker" that rival "Ryan" for impact, tightening the screws more slowly, more claustrophobically, until you feel as though you've been holding your breath even when you haven't. There are at least three of these sequences in "The Hurt Locker," all done in their own pace without dragging, all expertly performed, all showing a face of war that we haven't seen on film before.
There are bit roles from recognizable actors like David Morse (brilliant in his few moments on screen), Guy Pearce, and Ralph Finnes, but the majority of the acting load is shouldered by lesser-knowns Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie; they're both excellent. In a just world, this movie would be earning four hundred million in the US, not "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." But while the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has pulled plenty of "say what?" moment in the past ("Crash," really?!?), they still have a chance to do right by this film and quality cinema in general: Best Picture nomination, a Best Director nod for Kathryn Bigelow, Best Screenplay (of some sort; this is based on journalism by the writer, Mark Boal, which may qualify it as "adapted" work), and acting nominations for Renner and Mackie. Yes, it's that good.
It's still only August and there's a lot of film to come in the ramp-up months to awards season, so this may be a stretch. But any movie that's going to top "The Hurt Locker" as my favorite of 2009 certainly has its work cut out for it.
BONUS POINTS: Unlike so many lesser films ("Crash," again looking in your direction), "The Hurt Locker" feels no need to explain its title on screen. There's never a point (at least that I recall) in which a character earnestly says, "Man, we're really in the hurt locker now" or words to that effect. A small point, sure, but just another nod to the creativity and confidence of the filmmakers.
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