Published Jul 10, 2009Kathryn Bigelow has made a career out of examining the broad social need for vicarious thrills, often utilizing portraits of men under pressure in scenarios where singular thinking and uncompromising "rightness" mirrors survival and an inability to function without duress.
She has connected male aggression to homoerotic one-upmanship in films like Point Break and Near Dark while pointing out that entitlement and a lack of discernment stems mainly from never having to question a culture that's defined essentially by the normative man.
The Hurt Locker is no exception, leaving politics and wartime propaganda aside to investigate the addiction to peril and supposed honour. Considering auteur theory, this film could easily be considered an example of a director perfecting her thesis. It's that good.
Avoiding polemical fodder and soapbox preaching, The Hurt Locker plays as a procedural examination of a bomb expert in Iraq (Jeremy Renner) specializing in Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). There's an existentialist vein throughout, as our rambunctious protagonist seems disconnected from the technicians around him, finding calm only in the seemingly pointless routine of disassembling bombs and engaging in sniper combat.
His mode of connection with other men is through violence as a mode of erotic transference, given that a particularly tense desert shootout (a standout sequence in the film) results in a bout of shirtless wrestling, straddled domination and a rousing round of "punch me in the stomach." We know why this is appealing to them even if they don't.
While the film boasts a vérité hand-held aesthetic, Bigelow assuredly manages to hold things together, maintaining stylization and cohesion, unlike most films that adopt this trend. She puts us in the world of this soldier, examining his day-to-day with a keen sense of observation rarely seen in films of this ilk. It forces the viewer to identify with the world rather than pass judgment, which is perhaps where the real strength of The Hurt Locker lies.
Impressively, what defines the film, and our IED specialist, is not necessarily his detachment and relentless nature but a later scene in a grocery store with his wife (Evangeline Lilly) where choosing cereal proves more problematic than matters of life and death. The seeming implication here is that uncertainty breeds discontent, as opposed to the ease of specified rightness. (Maple) (Maple)