I have never seen such amazing explosions like the ones contained in the brilliant character driven "action" film, "The Hurt Locker", directed by Katherine Bigelow of "Point Break" fame. Fiery, smoking bolts exploded by the god of war himself, and not a computer, Bigelow films every fireball and blast in extreme slow-motion, accentuating the real poetry in real everyday violence that, sitting in the right theater, is extremely palpable, and strikes a note deep in your chest. THA-KHOOM!
So the explosions are intensely beautiful, and the film is wall to wall filled with all sorts of them, but at the center is a great character story about men at war and at work, defusing these weapons of destruction in 2004 Iraq. Jeremy Renner, whom I first greatly admired for the underrated "28 Weeks Later" again plays an American soldier, but this time, he gets the whole spot light, most of the time anyway. He defuses bombs every day, all day, which is the one thing he loves most in the world. He has a family, wife and baby, but we see he'd leave them at the drop of a hat to defuse a great big bomb. He's an adrenaline junkie and a big mystery in a Brando kind of way, and he likes it like that(while at the same time he doesn't seem to be truly aware of himself, which provides some comedy in all of the brutality). Some would say that this is a sort of single minded character could be flat, but Renner delivers some truly subtle and beautiful nuances in his portrayal of an everyday kind of guy who gets his kicks by putting himself in harm's way, he seems at once hyper real, the kind of hero that belongs in comic books with the way he confronts conflict and at the same time he is an honest portrayal of the kind of troubled young men we entrust with our country's safety. He's easily on my short list for "Best Actor" at the next Academy Awards. The image of him finding peace and quiet on his cot while halfway dressed in his bomb squad outfit is seared in my memory as one of the best shots in a recent film.
All the other actors in the film really bring it home, too. Guy Pearce gets an extended cameo as Renner's more cautious predecessor, but it's really Ralph Fiennes who shows up at the halfway point and steals his entire scene. He proves once again that he is probably the most versatile and creative actor working right now. "The Hurt Locker" goes hand in hand with "In Bruges" for the best guest appearances by the actor who's been Voldermort for the past couple of years. Just remember him as Amon Goeth in Schindler's List and you'll see what I'm talking about, the guy is a true character, it's a bit of an honor watching him perform his craft at the cinema, paying to see him.
Every couple of years you see a perfect film. Last year it was "In Bruges" and "Slumdog Millionaire" was perfect in it's aw-shucks sentimental kind of way. "Sunshine" the year before that, the list goes on and on...I like a lot of films, but few have the purely brilliant performances, wonderful cinematography, music, directing and screenplay to be called perfect. It was the apolitical styling of this film, and the total drenching reality of it that truly puts it above and beyond other films I've seen recently(even Moon, which was brilliant, not necessarily perfect though). "The Hurt Locker" sets itself apart from all of the war films of recent memory by showing the human side of every soldier, what makes the man in the uniform, in the bomb squad outfit want to be there. A lot of soldiers in Iraq have bitched about conditions, wear, morality, etc, but they are all still there, doing their duty and they must find some joy in it. Jeremy Renner plays a man that truly deep down enjoys defusing bombs and I enjoyed watching him defuse bombs. "The Hurt Locker" is my favorite war film of it's kind since "Black Hawk Down", and it's head and shoulders above it. 5 IEDs out of 5. Haha.