A lot of critics say that movies about the Iraq War aren't very good and don't do very well at the box office. I don't entirely agree with that. I thought "Jarhead" and "The Kingdom" were two very well done Iraq War movies. But there's something about "The Hurt Locker" that makes it not only the best Iraq War movie ever made, it might be possibly one of the best war movies ever made. But don't go into this expecting the epic scale of "Saving Private Ryan." Don't expect the heartbreaking drama of "Platoon." In fact, don't even expect the sense of gallant pride that "Glory" delivered either. This movie is more in the realm of "Full Metal Jacket." It's not really about anything. It doesn't have much of a story but it doesn't need one. It's written by Mark Boal who was embedded with explosive experts in Iraq. The portrait he paints of soldiers (he also wrote the very underrated "In the Valley of Elah") is not heroic nor controversial. He knows that soldiers are complex and tortured people who have problems and dreams and fears but are trained not to let any of that surface. I think it has to be noted also that this movie was directed by Kathryn Bigelow...a woman. I think that's significant because A: she proves that you don't need to be a testosterone-filled man to tell a compelling war film and B: she may be the first female Best Director winner. She uses mostly handheld camera shots to create an amazing sense of tension and suspense. She also made the call to cast unfamiliar actors as the leads with a few famous faces throughout in cameos. Stars Jeremy Renner and Anthonie Mackie show us tormented and dark people who suppress their emotions so well, that it makes them a far cry from the John Wayne-type of heroes we're used to seeing in war films. To describe what "The Hurt Locker" story is about is pointless. I think that's why the title of the movie doesn't even show up in any of the credits or is even spoken in any dialogue. But a "hurt locker" is a military term for a figurative place where someone is expected to suffer great pain. Whether or not the "hurt locker" in this movie relates to Iraq or the mind of the soldiers is up to you to interrupt.
The Hurt Locker (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A-