The Hurt Locker is the second Best Picture nominee I've seen since the list was a nnounced a few weeks ago. At that time, I had no clear Best Picture winner in mind, although I was thinking Up In The Air might beat out Avatar.
I was wrong. The clear winner in this race is The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow's stunning film about a three-man IED detonating team in Iraq.
The film is real, immediate, and vivid. I had to check the case several times to make sure this wasn't a documentary. Screenwriter Mark Boal was an embed with an IED unit in Iraq; that's why the dialogue and the situations are so realistic. Shot in Jordan, the film follows Army Sergeant William James (a brilliant Jeremy Renner)and his team as they move through the final days of thier deployment with Bravo Company at Camp Victory in Baghdad. Their mission--to find IEDs and disarm them before they disarm and kill anyone else.
The premise is simple, the acting crystal-clear. It may be one of the most perfect movies I have ever seen, except that you keep forgetting it's a movie. There's no Hollywood touches--no glam costumes, no artful battle scenes. During one particularly long stand-off sequence, sand accumulates on the men and flies settle on their bodies. The camera zooms in on the eyes, the lashes coated in sand, but still intent on their target across the desert.
This is a movie you experience. You live every second with these men. Jeremy Renner is a shoe-in for Best Actor. No one can touch his performance in this film (sorry George. Maybe next year.). He's pitch perfect as the Staff Sergeant who's a bit unconventional, but the best at what he does. Ralph Fiennes makes a brief appearance as a British force leader.
After seeing this movie, I can't believe that something like Avatar, which exists primarily on special effects, is even in the same contest. While it tells the story of fantasy world of the future, The Hurt Locker is a gripping look at the here and now, yet it also transcends the time and place of its setting. There is no slant, and no agenda--there are just three men, doing their jobs, knowing that any second, their lives could be over. When it's over, you can almost feel the sand on your face and the sun on your back.
Yes, this is only the second Best Picture nominee I've seen, and I've got at least one (Inglorious Basterds) lined up for the weekend. But I can't imagine how any other movie can touch the brilliance and deep-seated reality of The Hurt Locker.