Whew! Now Kathryn Bigelow knows a thing or two about exacting tension. Her mastery is on full display in The Hurt Locker, an exceptional war thriller about a U.S. bomb squad disarming explosives in Baghdad. It’s a big breakthrough for star Jeremy Renner, excellent as a reckless cowboy who is virtually addicted to defusing bombs, hence the film’s tagline “war is a drug”. During his month long tour, Renner’s character has his eyes opened to the nastiness of the war he’s fighting, but experiences internal conflict because he still depends on the adrenaline rush of playing with fire. Tensions are also rampant within the bomb squad unit, especially between Renner and Anthony Mackie, superb as war-weary sergeant furious with Renner’s dangerous antics.
The cast is indeed great, but Bigelow also had a very talented crew working on this movie. DP Barry Ackroyd uses handheld camerawork to extremely dramatic effect, particularly for the POV shots that pull the audience right into the action. Ditto to the exhilarating film editing of Bob Murawski and Chris Innis. Be sure to see it on the loudest screen possible, as it’s the only way to truly appreciate Paul Ottosson’s Oscar-worthy sound design.
It’s apparent that The Hurt Locker will likely ride a strong wave of critical kudos straight the Kodak, with nominations for Picture, Director, and Film Editing almost certain. A nod for Renner would be very much deserved, as would Screenplay, Cinematography, and, of course, both sound categories, but those nominations should not be taken for granted just yet.
**** out of ****