The Hurt Locker (2009)
As Kathryn Bigelow, perhaps the least talented of the working female directors in Hollywood today, won the best director Oscar for this slight, flat, and badly researched "journal" from the daily life of American EOD soldiers in Iraq, you may have been tricked into believing she had finally made a fully creditable film. After watching The Hurt Locker with a critical eye, however, there is little doubt that Point Break is still her best entry to date.
As with the majority of the movies from the Iraq War in recent years, The Hurt Locker tries to earn relevance and thematic weight by being unpolitical. And although the simple nature of Bigelow's storytelling secures this on an explicit level, her biased and unnuanced portrayal of characters and situations takes away the film's objectivity. The American forces are portrayed as loose cowboys in an unruly organisation, and the Iraqi people are all presented as ruthless warmongers with no purpose other than to blow things up and/or watch this happen. The main character is a ridiculous throwback to the wild loners in western film history, and the unprofessionalism that he represents will hardly be appreciated by neither side of this conflict - let alone the many war veterans who'll watch this film.
If Bigelow's inclination was to depict the deep human drama that goes on between the soldiers, she totally misses the mark, because our protagonists are stereotypes with little more than a few hackneyed phrases to share between them. I suspect Bigelow really wanted to make a film which was critical of war but objective in its presentation of it. As it is presented, however, The Hurt Locker embraces war - as the basis for its existence. James is a necessary hero, and the hapless Iraqis just keep planting bombs to accommodate his showing-off. The film has no self-criticism or sense of irony. And what's worse, it lacks accuracy in the portrayal of the military operations - usually confusing stupidity and insubordination with heroism in the process.
Gritty, low-key and unpolitical are three key characteristics which often have been the marks of good indie films. Kathryn Bigelow follows this recipe, but forgets most other elements a quality film should have. One of them is truthfulness and insight - both of which are lacking in this unprofessional movie. And with a profoundly unnarrative and segmental structure, there is little to gloss over the flaws in terms of engagement and suspense.