out of Five
Running time: 131
Sharply written, superbly directed and extremely tense thriller with a terrific central performance from rising star Jeremy Renner.
What's it all about?
Director Kathryn Bigelow makes a welcome return to nerve-shredding thrillers with The Hurt Locker, based on a script by Mark Boal, a journalist who was attached to a bomb squad in postwar Iraq. Jeremy Renner stars as Will James, a fearless bomb disposal expert who seems to have learned the art from watching Lethal Weapon movies, much to the consternation of his counting-the-days colleagues Sandborne (Anthony Mackie) and Eldritch (Brian Geraghty).
Initially, James wins over Sandborne and Eldritch through his astonishing acts of bravery, but after just two weeks of James-induced stress, they are seriously considering “accidentally” killing him. Meanwhile, Eldritch receives therapy due to a traumatic incident in the film's opening scene, while Sandborne finds himself the centre of a terrifying sniper attack.
It's a genuine treat to have Kathryn Bigelow back in the director's chair – here's hoping she's at the beginning of a new-found productive streak. Needless to say, she orchestrates some terrifically tense bomb disposal scenes as well as a thoroughly gripping (and scary) sniper shoot-out sequence.
Most thrillers are lucky if they have even one genuine, nail-biting moment, but The Hurt Locker has one roughly every 20 minutes or so. Highlights include an extraordinarily tense sequence outside the UN building and a genuinely shocking opening scene, complete with WALL-E-alike disposo-bots.
Renner is utterly brilliant, ensuring that we really care about his character, even if he might actually have something of a dangerous death wish. There's also strong support from both Mackie and Geraghty as well as a series of inspired cameos from Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse and Lost's Evangeline Lilly.
In short, The Hurt Locker is a highly entertaining thriller with strong performances and great direction from Kathryn Bigelow. Recommended.