‘The Hurt Locker’

The Hurt Locker
Five out of five stars
Rated R/131 min.

Of all the directors to make a comeback after years out of the spotlight, there is no one who deserves it more than Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow (Point Break, Strange Days, Blue Steel) is the only female action movie director with a large, consistently great body of work. Her best films are ultra-violent, richly stylish and always exciting, but a number of flops took away her clout and her visibility dimmed.

Her latest stars Jeremy Renner as a soldier in Iraq who’s sent out to defuse deadly improvised explosive devices. Bigelow takes a fresh approach to the Iraq war: instead of fashioning a preachy, heavy-handed rant, she’s made an action movie, plain and simple, documenting the day-to-day encounters of U.S. soldiers who walk away shaken, adrenalized or not at all from the horrors they witness.

From the first frame, a quote citing war as a drug, Bigelow dives into the notion that soldiers with a lets-get-’em bravado will fare better than those in a constant state of fear. It may not make for a typically somber Hollywood film, but this is far more authentic, thought provoking and complex than other, more overtly political films on the same subject.

The ending is so gung-ho patriotic, some may have a hard time with it, but it fits the story perfectly. This movie is a bloodstained love letter to those who do what others can’t and change the world by putting themselves in extraordinary danger. It’s not only Bigelow’s return to form, but one of the best films of the year. Maui Time Weekly, Barry Wurst II