Hurt’s so good

Sometimes, your radar is only so big.

I feel ever-so-remorseful for letting a review slip by on it’s initial theatrical release, but I am imploring readers to not to let this one squeak under their watchful eyes when it is released on video.

Which is why I am alerting you to the DVD release date of “The Hurt Locker,” which is set for January 12, 2010, a mere few weeks away.

You may have heard the name bandied about on several best-of lists for 2009, currently winning the Best Film Award from the National Board of Review, earning a spot on countless year-end “best” lists and a front runner for the upcoming Oscar nominations.

Don’t feel bad for missing it, though,as it appeared on but a few screens in its theatrical release (which actually began last year in Italy, where it premiered). It’s impact should not be diminished on the home screen, either, especially one with a crisp home theater that can capture every whiz of shrapnel that sparks the surrounding speakers.

Deftly dodging politics and polemic, which oftentimes can keep audiences at arm’s length in war films, “Hurt Locker” exists solely in the moment. Scene after scene unspools as tight as a tripwire, giving the audience its own helmet and sending it straight to the front line.

Learning the mistakes made from “The Kingdom,” Peter Berg’s earnest-but-uneven 2007 attempt at Middle East battles, director Kathryn Bigelow’s trims all the fat and constructs, above all else, an intimate action thriller in which chaos is king.

It follows a team of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit stationed in Baghdad, 2004. Having recently lost a member during an anxiety-inducing opening, the film focuses on three members who must nose out IEDs that punctuate the tattered landscape. Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (played by Anthony Mackie) is the rule-abiding leader of the group, the jittery Specialist Owen Eldridge (played by Brian Geraghty) and its newest member, Sgt. William James (played by Jeremy Renner), who proves to be an emotional weapon of potential mass destruction.

James is at first amiable enough, but soon displays signs that he doesn’t play well with others: disarming bombs himself (instead of the robotic aid typically used by the group), removing protective clothing, choosing to work incommunicado during a diffusing, or, worse yet, tossing smoke bombs to make his actions invisible to his own troops.

But also just like the objects of his duty, his internal circuitry is much more complex than its initially assessed to be. First, he’s obviously got mad skills at his job, at one point quietly admitting to diffusing almost 1,000 such devices. And second, he’s capable of immense compassion, taking under his wing an Iraqi youth who hangs around the base.

Bigelow, a James Cameron protégée, has made a career of sleek second-tier thrillers – from the surf-tactular “Point Break” to the underseen “Strange Days” (and directed one of the best vampire films ever with “Near Dark”). And her skills at mounting tension have been honed to point of an acupuncture pin in “Locker.” I’m convinced had she set this film in outer space, she would easily be looking at one of the top-grossing films of the year.

But, based on a screenplay by journalist Mark Boal, whose Baghdad experiences serve as the backdrop, the film is instead hauntingly – almost disturbingly – real. But don’t let this deter you from making the mistake of missing this film a second time. For there’s an urgency in its realism that is sustained throughout its run-time. This is largely due to Bigelow’s precision as a director, but it’s also fueled by a nuanced performance from lead Remmer, who is a standout (which is tough in a film filled with many a noteworthy acting turn). For his focus in the kill zone is matched by his mental fracas in the quiet of home life. His mind seems to be the one explosive he is capable of diffusing.

And it is one that deserves to be seen by those from who it eluded during its brief, spotty theatrical run, for they will certainly be hearing much more about it as we now enter cinematic awards season.

~ by usesoapfilm on December 16, 2009.

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