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Bigelow's Baghdad Bomb Breakers
The Hurt Locker (DVD)
Member Name: yackers1
The Hurt Locker (DVD)
Advantages: An all round great film
Disadvantages: Not 100% accurate - but does it really matter?
As readers of my other film reviews will be aware I am not a fan of DVD extras, cut scenes, bonus material, commentaries or anything like that. I watch the feature film in isolation therefore this is a review of the film only.
Written by Mark Boal and directed by Kathryn Bigelow The Hurt Locker is a war film that was released in August 2009.
Our heroes consist of Sergent J.T Sanborn and Specialist Owen Eldridge who are led by Sergent Thompson. The trio is an elite team under the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) umbrella who are posted out in Iraq. Following a freak accident in which Sergeant Thompson gets killed, Sergent William James becomes the new team leader of the EOD unit.
Sergent James is very different to Thompson and the team is "shook up" as the dynamics change. Despite their personal issues, and internal squabbles the unit must remain strong and carry out what they are there to do, i.e. disarm explosives and survive their stint in the desert.
Do the trio mange to complete all their objectives and get out of Iraq in one piece? How has the Iraq experience changed the individuals within the team?
****Main Cast list and acting****
As you'd expect the cast is quite large with the main ones consisting of;
i) SSG William James - Jeremy Renner
ii) Sgt JT Sanborn - Anthony Mackie
iii) SPC Owen Eldridge - Brian Geraghty
iv) SSG Matt Thompson - Guy Pearce
v) Contractor Team Leader - Ralph Fiennes
vi) Colonel Reed - David Morse
vii) Connie James - Evangeline Lilly
Whilst there are a couple of big names in the cast, I refer to Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce, these are not the main characters in this film and play a relatively small role. That said, they still do a great job in supporting the main characters.
The main characters are played by a group of unknowns and I think they did a great job and were perfectly cast for the roles they played.
****My thoughts and opinion****
This film is a definite high flyer and having received many awards from many different groups of critics including an OSCAR for the categories including "Best Achievement in Cinematography", "Best Achievement in Directing", "Best Achievement In Editing", "Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures", and having received nominations for a further five Oscars and 50 other awards. I must admit that previous "hyped up" films I have seen have been a bit of a disappointment but this was not the case with this film as my expectations were well exceeded.
Other reviews, most of which claim to be written by current/ex-military or by military buffs and experts, slate the accuracy of the Hurt Locker. Amongst many other things one of the biggest criticisms appears to be the actual concept of manually disarming explosives as current practice is to detonate the explosives in situ with mechanical robots and blowing them up. This is considered the safer option.
I am not ex military nor am I interested in studying the techniques used by the military so I am unable to add much, if anything to this argument. In my opinion one of the key features that make this film so good is the tension, most of which is caused by the element of danger, and what is more dangerous than manually touching/disarming an explosive close up? Using robots, the "safer" option reduces the danger and tension therefore I am happy with this inaccuracy as I feel if it was a film about "robot wars" it wouldn't have been nowhere near as good.
I have read comments that this film is "disrespectful" to those who have served in Iraq. Let's face it, war is not nice and it is a very emotive issue, and there is no way that Bigalow was going to keep all sides happy. Nearly all films are "disrespectful" to some group of people and I don't think this film can be slated for it. Viewers have the choice to watch a film or not, they are not forced, therefore if it is likely to cause offence then the answer is not to watch it. Personally, I don't have a problem with war films. The military chose to do what they do (and I have to add that I think all service men and women are very brave and do an excellent job - it is one that I could never do)and unfortunately going to war appears in their job description so to slate a war film is unfair.
I appreciate there are some parts of this film that are exceptionally far-fetched that even I, as someone who is pretty ignorant to most things military, sat back and thought "no way". But then this is Hollywood and the film industry does have a tendency to sensationalise and 'big things up' in order to pull the crowds in so it would have been a bit naive to think everything in the film is 100% accurate.
One thing that surprised me was the lack of large battles or human against human fighting, the thing that is usually the main driver behind war films. Instead, this film is a break from the norm and focuses on a group of military personnel whose sole task is to disarm potential explosives. The story line on its own isn't that great but when you combine it with the suspense, and there is this by the bucket load, the overall effect is a great watch that will have you captivated from start to finish. There is a constant feel that something "big" is going to happen and because of this there really is no need to for an elaborate and clever story line that constantly twists and turns. The ending was a bit flat and with over two hours build up Bigalow could have done a lot more, although I guess it was kind of obvious that there was never going to be a massive crescendo to the finale as the momentum throughout the film remained pretty consistent. The ending is a bit of a disappointment, but overall it is still an excellent film.
The first team member is a bold, brash (some may say arrogant) individual who goes head to head with danger and has an "I am invincible and I can do anything" attitude. The second team member is far more cautious and has a strong survival instinct of safety, and the third team member is the "young gun" who has actually bitten off more than he can chew and is a bit cowardly.
Based on the above you can tell the personality types of the main characters are totally diverse, something that is highly unlikely to be the case in a team in real life, but hey this is Hollywood after all. Besides, it is the diversity of the team and seeing the interaction between them that is another thing that makes this film so good. The acting is excellent and the on-screen relationship between the three main characters is totally believable and all do a great job. The main cast are supported by a cast of great actors, and whilst some of them only have small roles they too do a fantastic job.
The audio is absolutely awesome, although I guess this is to be expected for a war film. The explosions, the ground breaking rumble of tanks and military vehicles and the like really adds to the overall effect. It is a film that needs to be played 'loud and proud' to fully appreciate the audio and I am a bit disappointed that I only got to watch this film at home. Whilst my home cinema surround set up has been more than good enough in the past I definitely feel that "proper" big screen sound would make this film even more entertaining to watch.
This film isn't a typical "America saves the day" war film and it sits on the fence, letting the viewers decide whether America was correct in moving in to Iraq or not, which removes the controversy and makes it appealing to a wider audience. Whilst this film is set in the Iraq conflict and since the story focuses on a trio of bomb disposal experts it could just as easily be set in any war.
If you are expecting a film to be 100% accurate then, based on other things I have read about this film, you are going to be disappointed. However, if you are like me and watch films purely for entertainment value then this may well be a film for you.
Overall I think it is fantastic and a great watch. It is not the best war film I have ever seen, I'm afraid that still goes to "Saving Private Ryan" closely followed by "Full Metal Jacket" but it comes a very close third. It is a film that had me gripped from start to finish and just over two hours of my life passed in what seemed like a few minutes.
Run time - 131 minutes
Certificate - 15
(This review was originally posted on Ciao under the name of yackers1)
Summary: One of the best war films of recent times