Now that the film is due on DVD on Jan. 12, here's your chance to catch up with it and see why it deserves all the buzz - or just enjoy it as the year's most gripping action movie, or the most accessible movie yet made about the Iraq War. "What is this 'Hurt Locker' movie, anyway?" you ask. It barely played in theaters when it opened last October, and yet nearly every critics' group is touting it as a likely Best Picture Oscar winner. What gives?
Now that the film is due on DVD on Jan. 12, here's your chance to catch up with it and see why it deserves all the buzz -- or just enjoy it as the year's most gripping action movie, or the most accessible movie yet made about the Iraq War.
In other words, you should see it because:
•It's really good.
Whether you prefer action or art-house fare, 'The Hurt Locker' is for you. A story about a bomb-defusing squad on the streets of Baghdad, the film is a continuous nail-biter, with one expertly-staged confrontation after another. But it's also an acute, well-acted psychological study, with the soldiers' words and deeds explaining the character of the men who take on bomb duty. Whether they're reckless adrenaline junkies or steel-nerved men without fear, 'The Hurt Locker' reveals why war is addictive, both for these soldiers and for those of us who watch from a safe distance.
•It gets to the heart of the Iraq War experience like no film yet has.
Many viewers have called 'The Hurt Locker' the 'Platoon' of Iraq War movies, the first movie to successfully convey a grunt's-eye view of how it feels to fight in this war's urban deserts. Screenwriter Mark Boal was a journalist embedded with a bomb squad much like this one, so the details (the merciless sun, the heavy packs, the dry dust in your mouth) all ring true. So does the paranoia -- danger could come from any pile of debris, any person on the street, any window, any cell phone. Unlike other Iraq War movies, which have been largely about the politics behind the war, this one is strictly about the soldiers doing their duty, trying to keep themselves and their buddies alive for one more month, one more day, one more minute.
•It could be this year's Best Picture.
It's already won Best Picture from at least a dozen critics' groups (more than any other 2009 movie), including the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. It's also up for top prizes at the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Producers Guild Awards, and the Independent Spirit Awards. An Oscar nomination seems inevitable, and a win very likely. Jeremy Renner, who stars as the team leader who's something of a human time bomb himself, is a leading contender for Best Actor kudos (alongside 'Up in the Air''s George Clooney, 'Crazy Heart''s Jeff Bridges, and 'A Single Man''s Colin Firth). And in the Best Director race...
•It could make Oscar history.
Only three women, in 80 years of the Oscars, have ever been nominated for Best Director, and none has ever won. 'Hurt Locker''s Kathryn Bigelow has a lock on becoming the fourth woman nominated (an honor she may share with some other women directors this year), and she has a very good chance of winning. That would make a sweet Cinderella-story climax for Bigelow, a director who broke the glass ceiling for women directors in the action-film arena with such striking films as 'Near Dark,' 'Point Break,' and 'Strange Days,' but whose career has been in the doldrums for much of the last decade and a half. Certainly, 'The Hurt Locker' is her most accomplished work, seamlessly combining expert action-film suspense and pyrotechnics, economical yet revealing performances (particularly from Renner and co-star Anthony Mackie), and documentary-style realism. In other words, she could win, not just because it would allow the Academy to pat itself on the back for its progressivism, but because she deserves it. Bonus points: her chief competition may be her ex-husband, 'Avatar''s James Cameron.
•Even James Cameron endorses it.
Cameron and Bigelow divorced 17 years ago, but they remain close, and in interviews, he's been nothing but supportive of her and quick to praise her work on 'The Hurt Locker.' Last month, on the day they were both nominated for Golden Globes, Cameron told MTV News, "I couldn't be happier to see her get a nomination, because it's a recognition that's long overdue. I've known that she's a genius filmmaker for a long time, and she's always flirted with this sort of critical success. This film is such a slam dunk. 'Hurt Locker' is such a great film." There you have it; even the King of the World thinks you should see 'The Hurt Locker.'