I, sadly, did not get to see this film in theaters. I'm still clinging to hope that they'll re-release it, with all of the Oscar nominations, but no such luck, yet. I was anxious to see it and as soon as I did, only one thought came to mind: The Hurt Locker, unlike so many films that have been built up and anticipated through the year, delivers everything a film should. It's an intense movie about an intense subject; and yet there are moments of such quiet humanity that make it all the more heartbreaking.
While it has become "The Little Movie That Could" for 2009, similar to Slumdog Millionaire and Little Miss Sunshine in the years preceding it (giving added push to it's Oscar race outcome), this is by no means a little movie. Centering on a bomb squad's last remaining days of their tour, the film isn't so much about war as the people at war, and most of all, about the people at war with themselves. Opening simply with the number of days left until the squad can return home, what follows is 131 minutes of brilliantly crafted, slow-building intensity, until it almost feels as if we, as the audience, are ticking, waiting to explode at the slightest trigger. And just when you think you've been released, as paraphrased from the great Michael Corleone, you're pulled back in again.
Director Kathryn Bigelow is by no means a novice to the action game, her best known success having come with her 1991 hit Point Break, but this film shows such a progression and love of the craft that comparisons are difficult, if not pointless. With each scene of The Hurt Locker we're given a soldier's vignette, a slice of life from a world that few of us will ever know, and probably even fewer could understand. What makes this film so unique is that it's a human story, not as much about the cost of war, but about the kind of people that war makes, or reversed, the kind of people that make war. It forces each one of us to look at ourselves and recognize what our own limits might be; how far any of us would be willing to go, and what we're willing to give up. It's about finding what makes you happy. That's something that I can't say about many films where war is acting as both a backdrop and a main character. Needless to say, it features a fantastic script from the still up-and-coming Mark Boal, and, dare I say, mesmerizing, turns from both Jeremy Renner (who pretty much owns the film and who I can't wait to see more of) and Anthony Mackie (whose quiet reserve being broken is one of the most emotionally wrenching moments of the film) and it is deserving of all of it's nominations and recognitions. Definitely one worth seeing, however you can.
4.5 out of 5 detonations.