July 15, 2009
July 16, 2009

The Hurt Locker finally gets it right

Review of The Hurt Locker, by Tarek Jammal

Having grown up and lived most of my life around the Middle East, I feel it’s one of the least well represented regions in American cinema. I don’t mean that it’s always negatively portrayed (which is true, but that’s beside the fact) but although American cinema prides itself on accuracy (and they’re pretty spot on most of the time) they never quite get it right when it comes to this region. This is what makes The Hurt Locker such a special film, and probably one of the best this year. Does it successfully and accurately portray daily life in the Middle East? Well, no… Actually there isn’t much footage being shown outside military areas… So in fact the film rarely does portray the region for me to claim that it got it right in comparison with most other western films… But it isn’t what’s on screen that makes it successful… for the first time in as much as I can remember, this film feels like the crew actually live here. The scenes never feel forced or “look at me I’m shooting on location”. The sets are never overblown or in focus… Here’s a better way to explain it… Children of Men was set in the future. But Alfonso Cuaron shot the film as though it was being viewed by an audience of that era… meaning he never focussed on any of the technology or explained it so those of us living in the year 2006 would understand it… Same goes for the Hurt Locker… not once does the film feel like it’s trying to explain something to the viewer or to focus on an interesting set or highlight any Arabian piece of culture… being an Arab myself, it never felt like the film was patronising, condescending, or trying too hard at all. As surprising as it is, it feels like director Katherine Bigelow knows exactly how it feels like to live like an Army man in the desert. The film kept it real. It’s one of the most intense films, especially in scenes when actually very little is going on. The mood and realism displayed is unequalled by any in the past couple of years… the dialogue never feeling scripted, the performances so well studied and delivered you’ll forget you’re watching actors (Jeremy Renner needs to be in more films, this one specifically showcasing him as a talent worth watching). However, one scene (where Renner’s Sergeant James forays into civilian territory in search for answers) does threaten the film’s credibility by losing focus of realism.. a scene I hoped was worked on better in the scriptwriting process. Although I understand the scene’s impact on the character, it felt like the film was shifting into Jason Bourne territory.. something that really has no place in a film like this. However, the rest of the film’s sequences are almost perfectly handled. The opening sequence is nerve-wreckingly beautiful. Sergeant James’s first job will have you holding your breath for its entirety. Ralph Feinnes’s sequence will probably standout as one of the better handled Sniper sequences in film history. I want to go on, but I think it’s about time you stopped reading this review and started planning your next trip to the movies. This is Katherine Bigelow’s best film and one of the better war films in the past decade. You need to make this the next film you watch. Fine… your next film after Harry Potter 6, happy?