One of the best movies of 2010 is out this week. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker, a visceral action film about the Iraq war, will jangle your nerves.
The film, set in 2004, opens with a quote from longtime war correspondent Chris Hedges that "the rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug."
That is epitomized in Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner), who has taken over Delta Company, an Army unit whose job is to detect and defuse or detonate the myriad of bombs that litter the country.
Unlike his predecessor, who was casual but careful and is killed by both technical and on-the-ground failures, James is unpredictable. He goes about disarming a land mine with existential resignation. This doesn't go over well with the other two members of the unit — Spc. Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), who is seeing the company's doctor for his nerves, and Sgt. J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), who hopes that if he's careful and sticks to the rules, he can get home alive.
The streets of Baghdad and the countryside all pose dangers, and Bigelow (Point Break, Strange Days, K-19: The Widowmaker) depicts them with set pieces that capture the tensions and uncertainties.
Renner's performance is brilliant, capturing the walking contradiction. The soldier is neither a gung-ho adrenaline-junkie often portrayed in war films nor a patriot or pacifist. He has a decent, caring side. He worries about a local boy who sells DVDs, but he also collects trigger devices from bombs that almost killed him. There is an almost crazy artist quality to him. His art, though, is war.
The scenes of the day-to-day-survival, the inability to tell friend from foe, the seething hatred of the Iraqi people are vivid enough and tell their own story.
The Hurt Locker retails for $26.99 or $34.99 on Blu-ray.