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A reader reviews Kathryn Bigelow's THE HURT LOCKER and calls it a comeback!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I'm going to be seeing THE HURT LOCKER during SXSW, which starts next week and AICN looks to be getting some time with Kathryn Bigelow while she's here. It'll either be me or Capone, depending on whose arm-strength is better when we arm-wrestle for interviews (I've been training the Stallone way and have mastered Over The Top, so he's pretty much fucked). Anyway, that's neither here nor there. Like most geeks, I find NEAR DARK to be a fucking awesome film and who doesn't like POINT BREAK? And STRANGE DAYS... you know, I have to revisit that one. I haven't seen it since it came out. It's very foggy in my mind. Better do that soon... So, it looks like THE HURT LOCKER will be doing its job... namely to wipe K-19: The Widowmaker out of our collective minds. Can't wait to check it out myself, but in the mean time here's Henry Kinkle with his thoughts on it!

Hi Harry. Caught a screening of Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq war movie The Hurt Locker last night here in NYC. This being New York, I shelled out 20 bucks for the show, but that did include a post-screening Q&A with the director, and even a little free booze after that. I have to start by saying I've found Kathryn Bigelow's career to be a bit of a disappointment. I think Near Dark is pretty much perfection. Absolutely the best of the growing crop of contemporary vampire films. The gunfight at the motel still ranks, for my money, as one of the best shootouts ever filmed. That being said, I think it's been down hill for her ever since. I know some people like Point Break, but while I'll concede that it is better than it has any right to be (given the immortal pairing of Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze), it's still pretty lame. So, I'm happy to report that The Hurt Locker is, in my opinion, a real comeback for her. She uses the Iraq situation to craft a good old fashioned war movie, one that's largely devoid of politics, but filled with plenty of tension, action, and some well-drawn characters. Plot-wise, there's not much to report. The film has sort of a loose, episodic structure that was, for me, reminiscent of Sam Fuller's The Big Red One. It's just a story of a group of guys (in this case, a three member bomb squad team in Iraq) going about their day to day, trying to stay alive until it's time to go home. No identifiable villain, no mission, so no real forward plot momentum. These three soldiers (all played by actors I wasn't at all familiar with) spend their days defusing the wide range of improvised explosive devices littering the streets of occupied Iraq, and we just follow them in their daily work. The central conflict arises from the extent to which the team leader, James (played by Jeremy Renner) has a tendency to be a bit reckless, putting his much more cautious teammates in jeopardy. In this regard, the film covers some fairly familiar territory, in terms of exploring the fine line between bravery and recklessness/stupidity that's been a common theme of so many cop and war movies over the years. To Live and Die in LA came particularly to mind while I was watching The Hurt Locker, in terms of its similar depiction of a guy who thrives on the adrenaline rush of nearly getting killed on a daily basis. The many scenes of this team diffusing the various bombs they encounter are incredibly tense, particularly one in which an Iraqi civilian shows up at a checkpoint with a vest made of explosives locked to his body, begging to have it removed before the timer attached to him hits zero. The tension bleeds into every scene, though, as Bigelow does a great job creating a constant sense of impending danger, where every pile of garbage or parked car is a potential bomb, and every Iraqi is a potential bomber or gunman. You feel this basically from the very first scene to the very last. I won't spoil the ending, except to say that I found it really effective in terms of communicating the idea that, while war may be hell, for some, regular life is even worse. So, all in all, an enjoyable return to form for Kathryn Bigelow. She doesn't reach the heights of Near Dark, but certainly surpasses the rest of her previous work. She confirmed in the Q&A, by the way, that the film will be opening June 26th. If you use this, you can call me Henry Krinkle.

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