Stars: **** out of 4
Review: Whoa. ‘The Hurt Locker’ is killer. This is not a product of hype, here; it really is that good. The fact that it defeated the big, bad ‘Avatar’ is awesome, and is a testament to a simple fact: 3-D is (until proven otherwise) an irrelevant addition to cinema. Seriously. You might as well install smell-o-vision, water sprayers or dynamic, vibrating chairs in cinemas. Theme Park rides are cool, and are indeed a kind of art, but they are not the same as cinema. The heart of cinema is the characters and their universe, not eye-candy. If you can buy the characters, it really doesn’t matter if the film is dead silent or extravagant in every way. Music is also integral to cinema, and not in any way superfluous, but 3-D definitely is. It has yet to prove itself as its own art. Even the beautiful ‘Avatar’, I believe, was hurt by relying too much on it. If 3-D is going to be respected, it can’t be a crutch. But I digress. Let’s talk ‘The Hurt Locker’.
The premise of director Kathryn Ann Bigelow’s opus is a quote from journalist Chris Hedges: “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” After this quote fades away, we’re thrown into war-torn Iraq, focusing intently on a small U.S. Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit. In the first scene, they try to disarm a bomb — and it ends with the unit leader running from the explosion. What happens next shows us that the rules are much more realistic, and therefore harsher, than your typical thriller. He dies. You can’t just run from a bomb, here in ‘The Hurt Locker’. They either explode and kill you, or they don’t, and chances are not good. The unit gets a new leader, who quickly shows himself to be reckless and ruthless in his bomb-disarming tactics. These “disarming” sequences are anything but that; they scare the hell out of you. Hitchcock would be proud. Music, performances, cinematography, etc… it’s all perfect.
This is a movie about all-consuming addiction in the form of war, or more accurately, in the form of adrenaline. It affects us all, in some way or another. Some people get their buzz from arguments, from gossip, from politics, from purposefully fed paranoia, from natural danger, or from dodging bullets and disarming bombs. What happens to Sergeant James is what could happen to any of us adrenaline addicts; He loses his love of life and of people to his thrills. As in the classic sci-fi film ‘Forbidden Planet’, the animalistic base nature, the ‘id’, is what threatens the protagonist. In this case, he gradually loses his higher ambitions, indeed his humanity, to it.
In contrast to ‘Avatar’, this is how a moral message should be told in a story. It should be organic, not overbearing. I’m awfully glad this won Best Picture. It has restored my faith in the Oscars.