This Box is Full of Stuff That Almost Killed Me
Today’s movie had a lot of buzz going for it when it came out. I remember hearing about it, but never wanting to see it. I saw it as an action/drama set in the middle of a war and there was something about bombs in it, and I decided “I don’t really wanna see that.” I like a good action movie, but the combination of it being a drama and it being a drama set in a realistic, present day war situation made me think it would take a lot out of me to watch it. I’ve seen enough war movies to know that I am too much of a coward … I mean pacifist … to want to go there and do that, so why would I want to watch a movie about it? Well it came time for me to do it anyway, and so here is your review of The Hurt Locker, written by Mark Boal, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Christopher Sayegh, Ralph Fiennes, Christian Camargo, David Morse, and Evangeline Lilly.
In the beginning, Staff Sergeant Thompson (Guy Pearce) is out to disarm an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) with his teammates, Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldrich (Brian Geraghty). Someone in the area with a cell phone sets it off and kills Thompson. Shortly after, Thompson is replaced by Sergeant First Class James (Jeremy Renner). The rest of the movie follows these three through various situations that test their abilities and their patience. Sanborn and Eldrich don’t get along with James’ eccentric and renegade ways through each of them. They have to disarm a bomb in the trunk of a car next to the UN and James decides he would rather work with his radio and bombsuit removed, they detonate some explosives in a remote desert and Sanborn talks with Eldrich about “accidentally” setting off the explosion as James goes to get his gloves from the kill zone, they find the body of a boy that James had befriended on the base filled with explosives, and other situations as we count down the days until their tour of duty is over.
This is a pretty awesome movie, but not quite perfect. It has great action, fantastic tension, superb performances, but the story gives me a little bit of difficulty. The movie is mostly about disarming bombs, which is usually a really slow, but super tense situation, and the movie captures that brilliantly. I was captivated by the movie practically all the way through. I would say the pinnacle of the tension was the scene where they had a super realistic sniper battle after meeting Ralph Fiennes and his crew of mercenaries. The building was really far away and none of the trained snipers were still alive and they kept missing because of the range of the enemies and things kept going wrong like the bullets jamming because the sniper’s blood was in the clip and other enemies were creeping up behind them, but it was really tense and enthralling. It ended on a bit of a low note, but it was still really good. It was also filmed really well, and this was best illustrated in the very beginning when Guy Pearce dies. It exploded, causing the dirt to pop up off the ground and the rust was shaken off of a nearby car. It was really cool to look at. The problem I had with it was that it never really explained to us how Guy Pearce actually met his end. He was running away from the explosion in a bomb suit and blood exploded onto the visor of his helmet. Not being a bomb expert (as I’m sure most viewers aren’t), I wondered what it was that killed him, but never found out. Was it the shockwave that killed him? Shrapnel from the explosion? I have no idea. It didn’t take me out of the movie, but I feel like they should have dumbed it down a bit for the non-veteran audience. The real problem I had with the story was that it practically didn’t exist. It was just following around three guys going to various, somewhat unrelated situations and resolving them as best they could. There was never any story arc or resolution. It was kind of about how people get addicted to war, and they showed that at the very end when Renner returns to his wife and kid for a short time, but then returns to the service for another year of service. It feels like a bit of easy writing because you just put the same three guys into real-life dangerous situations, but you instantly get the emotional response from American audiences because we all love our troops and watching things that they actually have to deal with while we’re relatively comfortable and safe over here gets our attention. But you didn’t have to write this, so it seems a bit lazy without some kind of story arc. It didn’t actually occur to me until right after the movie though, so obviously it wasn’t that big of an issue because the things they did right overcame the lazy writing. One other thing that occurred to me as strange in the writing was what happened with Christopher Sayegh’s character “Beckham”. He was a little boy that Renner had befriended at the base and then later they find him dead and packed with explosives. This is deeply troubling to Renner in the movie, but what is deeply troubling to me is that it later turns out that this was some other random boy and Beckham was still alive. Not only does this strike me as kind of “all these people look the same” racist, but it takes away that scene’s emotional impact for the audience and for no good reason. Why not just leave it as that boy and we would all still be bummed about it? Instead Beckham just comes back later and we think “Oh, sucks for that other boy, but at least the one we knew was still alive. But James might be kind of racist, right?” I mean I couldn’t tell that it wasn’t him that was dead, but I acknowledge my racism!
The performances in this movie are fantastic all the way through. Renner was unrealistically a maverick in the field – which is something that they would not tolerate in the actual Army – but his performance was great. He kept his cool relatively well in tense situations, but really showed what he could do when reacting to finding Beckham’s dead body. And, though the movie shat on that later, his performance remains fantastic. Anthony Mackie also gave a great performance. He was the more realistic character in the group, trying to follow the proper protocols when Renner was doing his own thing. The problem I had with his character is the part where he was discussing killing Renner. I don’t know if that stuff goes down in the real Army, but I’m sure it’s not doing good things for their recruiting numbers. I like to think of my Army as the guys that are practically a family and leave no man behind, not the guys that may cause the guy to get left behind because he’s kind of a dick. Brian Geraghty is also very good, but I felt like his character was a little melodramatic at times and depressing. After Guy Pearce died in the beginning, he just kept talking about death nonstop. I understand it being a devastating thing to go through, but it’s not helping you get home to just be waiting to die yourself. He did have a lot more of the emotional performances in the movie because of it though. Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce were really good in the movie as well, but they go by so quickly, even though they’re the biggest names in the movie.
Finally watched it and very glad I did, The Hurt Locker combines great visuals, great tension, and great performances to make a pretty amazing movie. The only thing that struck me as off in the movie is the lack of any cohesive story to tie the awesome situations together. But this is still definitely a movie worth watching. I never felt like the real life drama took anything out of me, but it was super entertaining and demands your attention. You can find it on Netflix, but I’ll probably be purchasing it soon. The Hurt Locker gets “There’s enough bang in there to blow us all to Jesus” out of “”Support your troops, and whatnot.”
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