The Hurt Locker

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Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Mar 21, 2010 8:33 pm

It reminded me of the Lethal Weapon films.

It's very well made for what it is. But it could have been set in a police station.
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Postby matthew » Sun Mar 21, 2010 8:27 pm

Thanks Damien.
I thought the war setting bordered on being incidential. As I pointed out in another thread, it reminded me a little bit of Requiem for a Dream; in the way the structure of the film mirrored the good-highs/bad-lows/paranoia of an addict. Only the Hurt Locker seemed even more depressing in the end. That final shot of the main character walking down the street showed how trapped he was in his addiction and he doesn't posess the personal insight to even begin to undertand his own situation (made fairly explicit during a conversation with his off-sider towards the end of the film.)
And you know eventually he's gonna OD (ie. get blown up...)
I think it's a very pessimistic film about the human condition.




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Postby Damien » Sun Mar 21, 2010 7:58 pm

Very interesting take on the film, Matthew. In fact, probably the most interesting thing I've read abourt it. And you do it a favor -- you make it sound much more interesting than it is.
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Postby matthew » Sun Mar 21, 2010 7:39 am

Finally saw it last week.

I think the film worked ok as a study of addictiveness. The structure seemed to mirror the highs and lows of an addict's life...the big hit adrenaline rush followed by the long down periods; the inevitable, drawn-out, bad high (the scenes in the desert) and the paranoia (believing the kid to be killed and looking for his family.) And of course, the recklessness of an addicts behaviour (putting other's lives at risk, even needing the next hit more than being with his own son...)

I thought that the direction was disappointingly pedestrian, particularly in utilising the usual hand-held silliness and I didn't really think the performances were all that great. I think the best performance was probably by the soldier who got shot in the foot (I can't remember his name.)

Overall, I thought it was just OK. I'll still stick to my preference of Inglourious Basterds for the Best Picture win.

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Postby Damien » Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:35 am

From the NY Times:


Iraqis Gather to Watch Hollywood’s Take on a War That Has Enveloped Their Lives
By TIM ARANGO

BAGHDAD, March 19, 2010 — Simple pleasures are still elusive here, but on a lazy Friday afternoon — a day before the seventh anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq — about a dozen men went to the movies to watch their war.

Instead of popcorn, there were date-filled pastries. The movie was a bootleg DVD of “The Hurt Locker” bought for a dollar and projected from a laptop to a big screen.

The subject, for this audience, was visceral and personal.

“Whenever we went to work, or when we would travel, we would see Americans trying to defuse bombs,” said Zaher Karim, 29, who works as a cameraman. “We would see these devices, this robot, which the Iraqis nicknamed Hamodi.”

In a city of seven million people but very few working movie theaters, the men said it was the first public showing of the movie, the recent Oscar winner that depicts a unit of American soldiers racing through Baghdad and disposing of car bombs — with their own hands and robotically — and improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s.

“We should be the first to see it, but we’ve only followed it in newspapers,” said Abdul Rasoul Hassan, 57, a retired mathematician.

Before the Academy Awards on March 7, the film came under harsh criticism from American veterans for what they termed inaccurate portrayals of military life and the war in Iraq.

The Iraqis gathered at the Friday movie club of the Iraqi Writers Union, a literary society for Baghdad’s intelligentsia, were no easier an audience.

Bassam Abbas, a lawyer, stepped outside to smoke. A butcher shop in one scene had the wrong Arabic word on its sign, he said, it was the word that Jordanians use, not Iraqis. (The film was shot in Jordan.)

“At least they could have made use of an adviser to teach them such things,” Mr. Abbas, 57, said. “And the accent is not an Iraqi accent.” He said the accent resembled an Egyptian one, perhaps not surprising since Egypt is the center of the Arab world’s entertainment industry.

He said one scene, early in the film, in which an Iraqi man gets past a cordon and drives near a soldier as he approaches an I.E.D., was inaccurate because the Iraqi man did not die. “He would definitely have been shot,” he said.

“I wonder how this movie got an Oscar?” he asked. “It’s unrealistic, even though I’m not a movie critic.”

For the men here, to watch the film was to relive a recent chapter of their lives. Nothing was faraway and abstract. And the subject — a single American bomb-disposal unit — had a special resonance, because countless Iraqis experienced roadside bombs firsthand.

“I’ve actually seen with my own eyes a robot defuse an I.E.D. when the American presence was heavy on the streets,” Mr. Abbas said. He complained that the film did not address some of the most painful touchstones of the war for Iraqis, like “the torture cases at Abu Ghraib, or the random shootings from American convoys that caused damage to Iraqi civilians.”

But many lives, the men said, were saved by American bomb disposal teams. Oday Manei, 29, a filmmaker, said “the unit that it showed was the unit that helped Iraqis the most.”

Like much else in this scarred city, art is a work in progress, and “The Hurt Locker” screening is part of an effort by young film enthusiasts to revive a dormant movie culture. Vibrant movie theaters that attract families are a relic of an old Baghdad, from many years before even the American invasion, a time before United Nations sanctions hurt the economic life of the country.

DVDs, however, are readily available at shops, where even pirated copies of current movies being shown in American movie theaters are available for a dollar.

“We are encouraging people to come to a place that looks like the movie palaces of the 1970s, when they could watch on a widescreen,” said Mr. Manei, who with four friends organized the Friday movie group at the writers union.

Gone are restrictions on artistic expression, but there is very little money to pay for film production in Iraq. Mr. Manei said he would like to make a documentary drama about an Iraqi police officer who by day works as a bomb-disposal expert and by night is a musician.

But for now nearly all films in Iraq are foreign. Even as the men quibbled with many of the details of “The Hurt Locker,” they seemed to realize it would be an important part of the historical memory of their war.

“In the future, when we talk to our children and grandchildren about what happened here, this is one thing we will show them,” Mr. Hassan said.
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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Aug 04, 2009 6:59 pm

Damien, the Oscar web sites are even more over-the-top on this than the critics. Go to Wells/Poland/Awards Daily: in all those spots, it's seen as self-evidently a great film which the public is disgracing itself by largely ignoring.

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Postby Penelope » Tue Aug 04, 2009 5:44 pm

Zahveed wrote:Did anybody else get a little motion sick?

Strangely, a friend of mine who joins me for movies had more motion sickness while watching In the Loop than he did watching The Hurt Locker.
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Postby Damien » Tue Aug 04, 2009 5:01 pm

My response to the critical raves this picture has garnered is WTF? It's nothing but marginally-well-done set pieces strung together minus any emotional heft, any subtext, any examination of moral issues. Plus those set pieces all had a sameness to them. And they were populated by walking cliches. I felt no tenseness because I couldn't have cared less about what happened to any of these people (well, the kid Beckham was kind of intersting). All I felt was boredom. much as I do when I happen to see a summer blockbuster action film.

I'm glad Jeremy Renner's in a successful movie because he was masterful in Dahmer, a role that might have killed anyone's career. but I couldn't wait for this movie to be over.
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Postby Sabin » Sun Aug 02, 2009 6:41 pm

I don't feel like writing right now because I'm a bit sick. I can officially no longer eat candy without dying on the inside. Not from the camerawork like my friends but...

I loved it. More later.
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Postby Zahveed » Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:54 am

I didn't read the reviews here or anywhere else before I saw the film, but I have the same feeling towards it as most of you. It's a great movie and some scenes are pretty tense, but it just seems like a series of events and lacks any engaging narrative. I made mention in another thread that the metaphor was utilized well, but nevertheless, it would have probably worked better as a series of short films.

Did anybody else get a little motion sick?
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Postby dws1982 » Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:58 am

I love how Armond White raved about this when he first reviewed it about a month ago, but this week, in his review of Lorna's Silence, calls it overrated.

I will hopefully see this sometime early next week, since it has finally opened in my town.




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Postby Okri » Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:49 pm

Interesting. I'm more on BJ's side of the debate. I really admired this film and loved parts of it (the Fiennes scene in particular is quite great). I'm not normally a fan of those "nerve-shredding for the sake of nerve-shredding" films (like Funny Games or Noe's I Stand Alone) but I thought it coalesced quite well (I find the way the war affects the three main soldiers to be quite intriguing and lucid).

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Postby Penelope » Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:08 pm

I see both sides of the fence here, but I think, overall, I have side with Tee: the movie is kinetic rush, superbly directed, edited, photographed, and the sound design in particular is stunning.

Nevertheless, I found the movie to be too emotionally distant--I never felt anything aside from anxiety (and a hope that these guys would, at least, make it out alive). Renner, Mackie and Brian Geraghty all give fine performances, though I disagree about Mackie's 11 o'clock bit--like the doctor going along for a ride, it all struck me as so much cliché.

I'd deliberately avoided reviews (except to note that they were strong), so I was surprised by the appearance of Ralph Fiennes. And the outcome of that cameo was a bit rattling.

The Hurt Locker strikes me as the type of film that in past years could've scored a Best Director nomination (that the director of this war film is a woman would even have helped its chances in this category); with the addition of 5 nominees to the Best Picture category, the film might be a player after all.
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Postby Mister Tee » Fri Jul 10, 2009 5:07 pm

Well, I have to own up to being disappointed. I don't question that the film is well made, nor do I dispute that there are solidly interesting sequences (especially in he first half). But I can't say I enjoyed much of it. Not since the first Alien (another film I thought was well made) have I so wished for a movie to be over long before its end, and for the same reason: because it had me in a state of consistent anxiety without, for me, much in the way of redemptive depth.

I don't often disagree to such an extent with BJ, but I just didn't see a whole lot of complexity. The Renner character may have his reasons for being such a hot dog, but as an audience member my only reaction to him is, you jerkoff, you're going to get somebody killed. (I honestly found Guy Pearce's character in the opening scene far more compelling; I'd rather have spent my two hours with him) And I didn't feel the structural build of which BJ speaks, either; for me, it was one incident after another, after a few of which, even though they were varied enough and well-staged, I experienced diminishing returns.

I'd also cite a number of narrative weak spots in the second half: the Beckham-dead-or-alive sequence was a worthy idea but, plotwise, a cul-de-sac; the "spiritual advisor tags along" segment a hopeless cliche; and, for me weakest of all, the trip back home, which seems to offer up the lamest of rationales for Renner's recklessness -- along the lines of, "Yeah, but look how boring clearing rain gutters is". (Side issue here: what was the point of throwing in as familiar a face as Evangeline Lilly for such a wispy part? The Fiennes cameo I can understand -- he's an old acquaintance of Bigelow's -- but Lilly feels like she dropped in from Mars)

Having aired my grievances, let me acknowledge alot of the individual scenes are strong -- I loved the opening, and admired the next few bomb-disarming sequences, before they began to seem routine. I also liked the "we could just blow him up" scene, and thought for the most part the fragile-camaraderie scenes among the three worked pretty well. On the down side, I thought the "we're going in after those guys even though it's not our job" scene near the end epitomized alot of what bothered me about the film in general: it was such an idiotic thing to do that that fact that it went badly was hard to care about. The only satisfying element was the Specialist's unmasked fury at Renner for causing his pain.

I'm certain the counter-argument to alot of what I'm saying would be, But that's what war is -- a mixture of constant anxiety and lethargy that is so unbearable one becomes a bit crazed to survive. And I have no doubt the film does an excellent job of recreating that sense. The question is, do I want to experience it, and for me the answer is no. I might have felt differently had I got some sense of exhiliration out of Renner's activities, but there was none for me. I just thought, this is a guy I wouldn't want on my team, and please get me out of here. (Another side note: I've heard some critics wonder if the film would have the ironic result of making some people feel war -- specifically Iraq -- is so exciting that it would be in effect a pro-war effort. I'd say, only to those already so wired. To me it made Iraq look like an unholy mess whose only solution was to have stayed out to begin with)

I've gone this far without really mentioning Bigelow, which is unfair, becauise she does her job well. She stages the various sequences with great kinetic tension, yet doesn't make it feel like an action-genre film. She does get the feel of a real war zone. For me, to reiterate, the only question is, to what end.

AS for the actors...they're fine but, as BJ suggests, they're not giving the sort of upfront performances that normally garner awards attention. I'd say Mackie is more likely to figure in the voting that Renner, but that's just a guess.

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Postby The Original BJ » Mon Jul 06, 2009 2:20 pm

We might as well start a thread for this one, because I think we'll be talking about The Hurt Locker a lot this year. It's nice to be reminded that, even in today's environment, films can still come out of nowhere to surprise you. I hadn't even heard of this film a couple weeks ago; now it's starting to be talked about as a Best Picture possibility.

I think The Hurt Locker is a very strong work, a gripping, tense war picture with a lot of interesting moral weight beneath the surface. What's terrific about the film is the way these elements don't impede one another. There are plenty of films where I've felt the "thrilling" aspects of the filmmaking -- exciting action sequences, suspenseful set pieces, gorgeous photography -- seemed to dilute the story's attempts at ethical quandaries. In pictures like this, I always feel like the filmmakers are trying to create a serious issue movie, but get sidetracked by the cheap need to take the audience on a "ride," thus turning the whole affair at best innocuous, at worst offensive. (Something like Blood Diamond might be a textbook example of this.)

The Hurt Locker, for me, sidestepped a lot of that problem tremendously well. It's filled with magnificent set pieces -- for a film about soldiers trying to track down and diffuse bombs, how could it not? -- but the narrative seems to be operating at a much more complex level than your typical action-er. There's a real anyone-could-die-at-any-moment feel to the film, which I think helps raise the stakes considerably (the casting really aids in this; I think you all will see what I mean when you see the film.) Plus, even the victorious moments in The Hurt Locker feel fraught with tension -- the film's title cards keep reminding us that though one bomb may be down, these soldiers all have to go out and do this again the next day.

Furthermore, the conflict between the characters complicates the proceedings considerably. A field mission can go quite well, yet leave a bitter aftertaste between soldiers, subverting the typical Hollywood notion that militaristic success necessarily bonds men (an idea likely being celebrated on movie screens across the country in that new Transformers movie.) The film even manages to enliven the old war-makes-men-mad cliches: given Jeremy Renner's character's rash behavior, the thoughts his fellow soldiers begin to have toward him seem startlingly understandable. And yet, Renner's own behavior doesn't entirely seem unreasonable either. Here is a man who copes with the daily horrors of war simply by pretending that they are not happening, taking a kind of lackadaisical approach that seems both utterly dangerous and completely rational.

Which brings me to the actor's performance, which I think is quite interesting. It's not a dominant role, in the way that awards bodies often like, but he creates a very intriguing character. His humor and sarcasm are pitched at just the right level that you can never really tell if he's thought through his decisions coherently, or if he merely acts like he has. I could see viewers coming away with a lot of conflicting takes on this character, his skill at his job, and his level of responsibility for endangering his men in the way that he does. Anthony Mackie also has a strong presence, and gets a nice 11 o'clock hour scene with Renner that reveals a lot about how differently each man seems to be experiencing this war.

The structure of the film is subtly peculiar. While watching it, I thought it had a chaotic, episodic quality that didn't seem inappropriate for a war film. But by the end of the movie, its major arc and the episodes that fill it out appeared, in retrospect, very structured. I'm not sure why I felt this way, but I think it's a testament to the strength of the script that the picture never feels schematic even as it moves toward presenting some clear dichotomies and contrasts.

Perhaps it's just the level of detail in the film. I love the way we don't really get much immediate information about how these squads diffuse bombs, and gradually learn more and more as we experience the characters' efforts. (To be honest, it took me a while to even grasp what was happening in that opening scene.) And the film's image of the space suit-like protective gear -- which I think could become iconic -- is a terrifying visual symbol: the suit protects the man inside, but only up to a point.....

I also really liked the ending a lot. It's not ambiguous in the way that, say, No Country for Old Men is, where it's clear some people are just going to be put off by it. But I also think viewers could come away with varying takes on why Renner's character makes the final decision that he does, which I think gives the picture some added richness.

I think The Hurt Locker could become a very talked-about film this year. It's gripping and engaging, and could also ignite some good water cooler conversations. I hope it will be successful.


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