Saturday, 29 August 2009

the hurt locker (d. kathryn bigelow, w. mark boal)

The movies keep coming. Mr Curry had narrowed down the choice to this against Almodovar. Iraq grunts won on a Friday night. Mr Curry regretted his decision. His was a weighty presence beside me, as he slid further and further into his seat. Every explosion seemed to force him deeper towards the ground off Tottenham Court Road which lay somewhere below us, and which, had a similar explosion to those that pepper Bigelow's Baghdad gone off, might have been revealed to the sky for the first time in centuries.

Mr Curry said, presciently, afterwards, that it's impossible for a movie to both try and entertain and try to have something serious to say. It's a busted flush of a Faustian pact (not his actual words) and in the end the financial imperative to entertain will always win through. This was one of the problems he had with The Hurt Locker, which seems to be receiving universal praise from the critics.

For my part, I wasn't too sure what to make of things. There were so many explosions, and so many moments of ultimate tension, that in the end there was nothing particularly explosive or tense about anything. Later, over cowpiss and kim chi, it struck me that the movie appeared to be aspiring to some of the complexity, grandeur and account-taking of The Deer Hunter. Aspiring, but ultimately falling short. Once again, there was too much movie making by numbers. Nothing summed this up more than the closing sequence, where the maverick Sgt James (played with some aplomb by Jeremy Renner) finds himself back Stateside with his uxoriously attractive wife and baby child of indeterminate sex. There are about three scenes in this sequence. One was a nicely guaged sequence in a supermarket, where James is confronted by a vast range of cereal choice in a soulless hanger, and the reality of what he's been laying his life on the line for is revealed in a simple, pleasantly sardonic fashion. The next is a brief scene where he says, as you expect him to, that defusing bombs is part of his psyche and he can't live without it, to which his wife, knowing this all along, responds by telling him to peel some vegetables. The third is a tired, potentially-though-not-quite vomit-inducing scene, where James tells his disinterested, sexless baby that his jack in the box is just some tin and a cloth, suggesting that there's more to life than products... or something along those lines. Intimating that there are other things, like making a mess of other country's social infrastructures and then trying to fix them; of feeling like a man because you do dangerous things; or cheese rolling... What the other things actually are, is never all that clear, they're just implied, and that's where you realise the filmmakers, for all their doubtless good intentions, doesn't have a clue about what points their film's trying so hard to make. They're just making a movie. A bit like the US just invaded a country. Because it could?

Which might be a bit harsh, though Mr Curry might agree. (He might not.) The Hurt Locker is a smart movie in so far as it's taken on a really strong premise, the men who dismantle the bombs, who try to make things right. Which is both kind of John Wayne and the closest you're going to come to a seemingly socially conscious approach in a US movie about the grunts in I-raq. However, the lack of any real Iraqi perspective seemed to weigh all the more heavily because of the closet social agenda. The explosions and macho stuff is done well, the human tragedy/ cost rather less so. Iraqis in the film are people who stare out of windows, and any one of them might be a threat, unless they're called Beckham. So in the end the John Wayne element easily trumps the socio-political element. Which brings us back to Mr Curry's point, which he put rather more succinctly.


nb - One reason for watching the film is to catch one of the most impressive hameos in the history of recent cinema. A hameo hopefully being self-explanatory, and if it isn't, watch the film and it soon will be.

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