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A Movie With A Capital O: Hurt Locker

Hurt Locker opens with Guy Pearce as he attempts to disable a disguised bomb hidden in a suburban, war-ravaged street in Iraq. It’s teeth-achingly tense, and this sets the tone for the film from beginning to end. I’m pretty sure I held my breath for the entire 2 hours.

The movie centres on the three men who form the Explosive Ordinance Disposal team – those who defuse bombs for a living. Based on a screenplay by Mark Boal, a reporter in Iraq during the war, the story follows the reckless cowboy, the by-the-book wannabe and the scared but eager kid who just wants to belong. They try to get on with the job at hand but struggle to reconcile what they do with who they are and how they can operate as a unit, as a team, in the most intimate of circumstances: where death is challenged up close 12 times a day, 7 days a week for 365 days.

This is a story about men who have chosen the most dangerous job on earth, literally. The characters are fictional but the viewer has a keen awareness that this is not a fiction; there are men doing that very same job in Iraq as we speak. As the film’s director, Kathryn Bigelow, puts it, “These are men who make life-or-death decisions under extreme pressure, pressure that's unimaginable to you and me. I think, or I hope, that imbues each frame with tension.” Understatement of the year.

Hurt Locker is Bigelow’s best film by a country mile. Her previous efforts, Point Break (*snigger*), cult-fave vampire flick Near Dark and Strange Days have been admirable and entertaining, but none have approached the powerful cinematography, visceral performances and commanding rhythm of Hurt Locker. Dialogue is almost irrelevant in this story – it’s all about action, tension and pace. Oh yeah, and some very pretty pictures! Not surprising considering Bigelow’s background as an avante garde painter.

Hurt Locker
had me belted, chained, handcuffed even, to my seat. Every moment is engrossing, curious and just a little bit scary because it’s unpredictable and oh so nerve-racking. Nobody talks about Hurt Locker without also muttering the “O” word (Oscar, duh!). I don’t think it’s over-doing it too much to put it in the same league as Full Metal Jacket.

Initially Roadshow planned to go straight to DVD in Australia, no cinema release at all. Fortunately a few weighty voices clamoured in outrage via Twitter (myself included, not that my voice has any clout whatsoever but it was there at least!), and Roadshow changed their tune pretty quickly. Of course given the recent plethora of Oscar nominations, they best be thanking us.

In case I’ve been less than clear, I loved this movie. I can’t say it enough. This is a film you want to see – it’ll knock your socks off guaranteed!

Previews for Hurt Locker begin this Friday the 12th.

words: Kristen Hodges


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