Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I'm a huge fan of "The Hurt Locker," which I suppose should be somewhat obvious.

S0 why do I think that you should go and see the movie?

After all, it isn't playing in a lot of places. According to Boxofficemojo.com, it was running in only 535 theatres nationwide during the weekend of August 7-9. Compare that to the two high-profile big-studio releases of the same weekend and you'll see a pretty wide gap: "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" (4,007 screens); "Julie and Julia" (2,354).

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," which opened the same week to almost universal critical derision (which is really a dreadful, mind-numbing and overlong piece of shit), is still playing in nearly FOUR TIMES as many theatres.

That means that you're probably going to have to seek "The Hurt Locker" out. So why should you?

I could just say "because it's a great film," and that's true, but it isn't enough.

"The Hurt Locker" delivers everything that a discriminating filmgoer wants from a cinema experience, namely:

  • Great acting
  • Great, memorable scenes and no bad ones
  • Great dialogue
  • A totally immersive movie experience, best had communally, on a big screen with an audience
  • And as a bonus, no character looks earnestly into the camera and says something like "man, we're really in the hurt locker now." In other words, the movie respects your intelligence a bit.

The movie is Rated R, and deservedly so - it is a war picture, there is violence and death and the ugly realities of combat, and plenty of salty G.I.-type language for seasoning. But you won't see fountains of gore. Aside from one sequence, the blood is more or less offscreen. The most impactful aspect of the movie is its intensity, the tension of its carefully constructed sequences.

The subject matter may not be everyone's cup of tea. There haven't been that many movies about the Iraq War yet, but they have generally not done well at the box office, which is of course the bottom line in the movie business. ("The Hurt Locker," again according to Boxofficemojo, has earned just a shade under $9 million in box office to date - pretty respectable for a small film on a few hundred screens, but a mere pittance in the big-studio ballgame.)

I think the general failure of Iraq War movies to date is largely because of fatigue from debating the rights and wrongs of the war. It was (and still is) a polarizing issue. I've got my own opinions, but in the spirit of the film, I'm not going to spell them out here, at least not now.

Just know this: if you're afraid of a preachy, message-filled two hours, don't be. THE MOVIE DOES NOT JUDGE THE WAR. In the movie, the war simply is. And the characters of Sergeant James, Sergeant Sanborn, and Specialist Eldridge as just guys doing a job, and hoping to go home when their job is done. That's all. Kind of - make that a lot - like the same guys I knew in the 90s in the 2nd Infantry and 3rd Infantry Divisions.

Just guys doing a job, hoping to get out and go home alive and intact.

I could go on. But instead, I'd like to offer the viewpoint of some far more prominent critics:

Roger Ebert - I've been reading and watching his reviews for nearly 30 years, and I've never seen him make a statement like he makes at the end of this review.

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly

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