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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Hurt Locker Review (plus Oscars review) - (Text)

The Hurt locker earned high acclaim from critics earlier this year, when it stormed the Oscars, winning a total of 6 Academy Awards, including those for “Best Director”, and “Best Film”. Katheryn Bigalow (Point Break) became the first female director to even win an Academy Award (though we all know Mary Harron should have won for American Psycho in 2000), completely Pwning (to use the parlance of our times) her ex-husband James Cameron, who had been tipped to win for his Epic Blockbuster “Avatar” (a movie I have yet to see). But did this low-budget war piece deserve the recognition it has been given, or did it simply win for political/douchey reasons? Given who’s writing this – I think you know what I’m about to say...

The plot of the Hurt locker is relatively simple: The movie follows a team of bomb disposal experts serving in Iraq for the last 38 days of their deployment, and switches between scenes of the soldiers on base, or trying to make friends with the local population, to tense scenes of bomb defusing. The acting is reasonable – with good performances turned in by most of the cast: Jeremy Renner (Star of 28 weeks later – also known as “the movie that was so bad I walked out of it: and I sat through the whole of Steven Seagal’s ‘Attack Force’!” if you’re a regular to the site) plays the lead - a douchebag bomb disposal expert who takes completely pointless risks, seems to be severely bi-polar, and acts more like a cartoon character than a believable person - fairly competently, given the script he had to work with. Certainly an improvement on his performance in 28 Weeks Later, at least (though, to be fair, the script there was even more lacking – and he probably deliberately acted badly because he knew how shit the film would be. The Suits upstairs want me to call this “doing a Robert Pattinson” – but I can’t bring myself to give the Sparkle Fairy franchise that kind of publicity, so instead shall say “He was doing a Gillian Anderson”, who became extremely despondent during the last 2 or so seasons of “The X-Files”).

His two main supporting cast members are also fairly competent, but again suffer from the same problem – a poorly written script. Anthony Mackie has an extremely moving emotional scene towards the end, but this is completely ruined 5 minutes later by what Renner’s character does (it’s the end, so I don’t want to spoil it – but it is retarded). The script seems to jump around frantically, sometimes reading like a dark, powerful anti-war film, and at other times seeming to be a parody of anti-war films, with pointlessly comedic sections, and an ending that couldn’t have been any more pro-American if it had been shot to that song from Team America:

Yes, I realise that this was a satirical anti-war commentary as well, but my point still stands - most Americans would see it as being a pro-war, pro-America song...

Literally, we go from a scene where one of the bomb disposal experts is agonising to a psychiatrist over the fact they could have saved their previous team leader (Guy Pierce) from being killed by a roadside bomb if only he had shot the Iraqi holding the detonator when he got the chance, to a scene where they have to detonate 2 bombs in a valley, and after the first explosion Renner says “Wait – I forgot my gloves!” and drives down to the second bomb to get them. I’m 90% certain the movie was written by 2 people who alternated the scenes each of them wrote, then put the movie together without reading each others’ sections. Half of it reads like early Oliver Stone (thinking Platoon rather than Scarface...), and the other half reads like it was written by the Wayans Brothers or Rob Schneider – they are that different!

Also, on the subject of Guy Pierce’s death – Whilst I admit it is clever, killing off the big-name star in the opening 10 minutes and bringing in a nobody to replace him for the rest of the film, it doesn’t work if you play this scene constantly for the trailers so everyone knows it’s coming as soon as the movie opens! Still, beats the kind of false advertising you get from some trailers/posters – What the fuck was up with “The Thin Red Line”? George Clooney got top billing but only had 20 seconds of screen time? Get the fuck out!

On the subject of which – despite the fact that their names made it onto the DVD cover, Ralph Fiennes and David Morse are hardly in this movie. Fiennes gets about 5 minutes of screen time, which is fair enough, I suppose – that’s about what Ted Danson got in “Saving Private Ryan”. But David Morse might as well have not been in the movie – he literally does NOTHING! He has ONE SCENE, in which he asks Renner a pointless question, and that’s it! Which is a real shame – because he’s usually so significant, even in his smaller roles (a certain film where he only has 2 lines yet kills practically every character at the end springs to mind...). But hey, the studios probably made Bigalow hire well known actors just so more people would go see the film, right? She probably wanted to make it with a bunch of unknowns, to make it more real. Although, no matter who was cast in this movie, there’s no way that some bits could be made to seem even remotely “real”...

The scene which springs to mind is one that caused me some annoyance whilst watching the film – the scene Ralph Fiennes dies in. Whilst the lead up to Fiennes getting shot is quite epic, first in the retarded way the American soldiers treat Fiennes as an insurgent because he’s wearing a headscarf and carrying an AK, despite the fact he has such an obviously British accent, and is clearly a white guy, and then in the way that the Iraqi attack on them seems to come from absolutely nowhere, which makes the confusion and panic you see seem more legitimate, the scene, in the end, fails harder than a paraplegic midget using a urinal.

When they come under attack, Ralph Fiennes’s team decide to break out the Barrett .50 cal to snipe the Iraqi insurgents who have them pinned down. Fiennes gets up on the sand bank, and takes aim with the rifle. An Iraqi sniper, however, has a lock on his position, and takes Fiennes out with a single shot. Realising they won’t get out of there unless someone can take out the snipers, Renner and Mackie decide to take over on the Barrett, and so get in THE EXACT SAME POSITION FIENNES WAS JUST SHOT IN to use the rifle, which it takes them at least 2 minutes to actually fire! Although this works out perfectly for the characters in the end, I can’t help but feel that, in real life, they both would have had their heads blown off the second they climbed out into A POSITION THE IRAQI SNIPER WAS ALREAD ZEROED ON AND LOOKING STRAIGHT AT. Or, you know, they would have relocated and set the rifle up in a different place, like REAL soldiers would have.

And that’s the thing – countless movies have ridiculous moments where, were it real life, the characters would undoubtedly be killed. I’ve seen more movies in which a soldier runs away from a helicopter or machinegun nest with bullets flying up all around them than I can keep count of. What’s different here, however, is that, despite being no less believable, the soldiers in The Hurt Locker have no reason to put themselves at such risk, and so just seem incompetent. I’m sure there are some plain stupid soldiers in the army who wouldn’t know to relocate from a position a sniper has a lock on, but it just seems preposterous, and you feel they should have been shot.

Another thing that has me confused about this movie is the fact that on the IMDB trivia page it states that the film was shot in a 100:1 aspect ratio. Now, I watched this film on my old 28” 4:3 TV (Yes, those still exist), and it seemed perfectly normal – so unless I was missing about 99% of each shot off the sides of the screen, the chosen aspect ratio just seems pointless. Also, why shoot a movie in 16mm for a “documentary style” when it is evidently such a ridiculous script? None of the characters did anything more bizarre than Robert Duvall’s character in Apocalypse now – and yet here, the stupidity of the characters seems to ruin the film, rather than enhance it. I think if Bigalow had realized the script was probably meant to be an Apocalypse Now style mash-up of preposterous characters and unrealistic situations, the film may have been better. As it stands, however, it just seems like a badly written film that tries to be real and fails (see complaints, above).

This is what leads me to think the only reason Katherine Bigalow won the Oscar for Best Director was simply so the Academy could say that a woman had now won an Oscar, and show that they weren’t discriminating against women (afterall, the film was released in 2008, so theoretically shouldn't have been eligible for this year's Oscars). The film is average at best, and either the script is absolute bollocks, or it was just really bad direction (or both?). The cinematography (what I could see of it on my 4:3 screen) seemed good, given they were going for the “documentary feel” – and the grainy, shaking camerawork was far less off-putting than in “Public Enemies” (which I intend to review soon – but don’t get me started on the camera work in that!), and seemed more genuine. However, as stated above, given the script, I think this was the wrong choice, and something a good director should have realised.

What I haven’t taken into account, however, is the fact that I haven’t actually seen any of the other films that got best director nominations, and they could all be shit. So, for fairness, I shall now comment on the other nominees without actually bothering to go out and research the films they were nominated for (that’s fair, right?). Oh, also, since I can’t really comment on the direction without seeing them, “Directing” shall henceforth mean “Suspected Overall Quality of Film”, or SOQF for short:


Google image search result for "Avatar" (as far as you know)

This film has gotten incredibly good reviews all across the board, and almost everyone I’ve spoken to who has seen it loved it. However, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Jar-Jar Binks when I first saw the Na'vi in the trailers, and that can’t be a good thing. I’ve also not quite gotten on this 3-D bandwagon yet, so am not too sure about the concept – afterall, every 3-D movie I can think of that didn’t come out in the last couple of years is awful (Jaws 3, Friday the Thirteenth Part 3, etc.), and every one that did, I haven’t seen. Also, it seems too gimmicky – I’ve heard they’re doing Saw 7 in 3-D... am I the only one who realises how retarded that idea is? Nevertheless, I intend to go see Toy Story 3 when it comes out, so may be impressed by 3-D yet. Also, the film just seems to be the plot of The Last Samurai (or Dances with Wolves – hell, even Little Big Man) again. Sure, it’s not a bad story, but it’s hardly original or ground-breaking. Still, I find it hard to believe this film could be worse than “The Hurt Locker”, given how many people have told me they loved it. Plus it’s fairly innovative (in terms of technology, not script). Avatar has just come out on DVD, so hopefully someone I know will get it and I can see what all the hype is about – but I highly doubt the effects will be better than those in Terminator 2 (Cameron’s high-water mark).


Google image search result for "Inglorious Basterds". If you spell "basterds" with an 'a' and look far enough...

I haven’t really heard too much about this film, which is probably a good thing. When Kill Bill came out, people were raving about it, but I was less than impressed whilst watching it. Hell, the only real achievement in that film is the kick-ass soundtrack put together by the Wu-Tang-Clan’s RZA. Reservoir Dogs, however, I had heard nothing about, but absolutely loved – and by that rationale, I am going to assume that Inglorious Basterds is fairly good. On top of this, I loved the original film, “Inglorious Bastards” (or “G.I. Bro” if you got the Blacksploitation version), which my younger brother got me for Christmas under the impression he had found a newly released film for only £3... I therefore suspect this film is more deserving than “The Hurt Locker”. Plus, you know the soundtrack’s gonna rule!


Google image result for "Push by Sapphire" - I'm liking the look of this film already!

So, is the Novel called “Push by Sapphire”, or is it called “Push” and written by someone named “Sapphire”? And why isn’t the movie named “Push” or “Push by Sapphire” rather than Precious? And given they were going to name the movie “Precious”, why put in the title that it was “based on Push by Sapphire”? Goodfellas isn’t known as “Goodfellas: Based on Wiseguy by Pileggi”, is it? Although, in Germany it is known as “Goodfellas: Drei Jahrzehnte in der Mafia”, but I digress... I don’t know anything about this film, other than what I saw in the 5 second films parody – but on the grounds of that, I feel I can say this film deserved the Oscar more than “The Hurt Locker”. A cat and his dim-witted owner who travel through portals into overly-bleak, melodramatic urban dramas? Sounds riotous!


Google image search result for "Up in the Air"

On the one hand, Jason Reitman insulted guys with yellow bedrooms, and for this he must DIE! On the other hand, this movie has George Clooney playing the lead, so must be good... hmm, tough one...

From this, I think it’s safe to assume that the Oscars only awarded Bigalow the award for Best Director due to political reasons, wanting to support feminism in the work place, much in the same way they encouraged a move toward gay rights by awarding Sean Penn the Oscar for “Milk”, or how they encouraged paedophilia by giving Polanski the Oscar for “The Pianist”. Wait...




Lack of clear vision or direction is what really hampers this film, with the scenes too disjointed and different for any clear sense to be made of what the movie is trying to achieve. The very up-and-down nature of the tone, going between poorly written comedy to sheer horror simply intensifies this feeling, and in the end it seems like the movie doesn’t really have a message behind it; it is nothing more than a collection of scenes, none of which are all that impressive. If you want a good War film, watch Platoon instead. If you just want a random selection of scenes that vaguely fit into an action story, may I recommend Rocky IV? It’s infinitely better.


The best REAL result for "Avatar".

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