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The Hurt Locker

Year: 2009
Production Co: Voltage Pictures
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse

I'm sure other film fans have noted the irony that some of the most male-centric movies of our time ( Point Break etc) have come from a female director.

I can't help wondering that if Tony Scott or Michael Bay had made this film it would have been dismissed as crash zoom techno-porn, but with Kathryn Bigelow behind the megaphone it's gathered buzz and award recognition like a snowball down a hill.

And everything you've heard about how tense and charged it is is true. The script from former journalist Mark Boal draws on his experiences while embedded with the army in Iraq and the bomb disposal squads that sweep the city looking for IEDs to defuse.

One such squad gets a brave/borderline insane new leader in James (Renner), and he soon puts his squadmates offside with his seemingly cavalier attitude to the work. But the characters are less the focus than the situation. This is more a day-in-the-life-of than a character piece, and that's a good thing considering what I found to be the movie's fatal flaw.

If it had been a Bay-style shoot 'em up a character like James would have been perfectly at home. He's the kind of hero American audiences love, a devil-may-care, balls-to-the-wall rebel without a cause, getting the job done and damn the authorities or the rules.

But despite its action movie aesthetics and trappings The Hurt Locker is a drama, and it's asking us to believe in everything on screen where a movie about trucks that turn into robots asks us to just go with it. I couldn't help thinking how unlikely it would be for a guy like James to rise through the ranks of the American military machine, an institution where careful due process and the following of orders weeds such personalities out early.

But the realism comes from Bigelow's staging, and she indeed wields her camera for maximum effect.

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