Viewed – 13 April 2010 Blu-ray
Well here we have it, the movie that got everyone talking when it hit big at the Oscars recently, and trounced former favourite Avatar, the irony being that it’s from the ex-wife of that movie’s director. For a while now Kathryn Bigelow has seemed happy to fly under the radar of mainstream acceptance, and even sleeper hits such as Point Break and Near Dark with their cult following failed to mark her out as someone who could stand with the big boys. This movie proves all that wrong, and now she’s going to be a director to watch – even if in my opinion, it’s not her best movie to date. That’s still Strange Days.
Set in present day Iraq, we follow a group of bomb-disposal soldiers who risk their lives every day disarming deadly bombs planted by extremists. Step in new team leader Jeremy Renner as Sergeant William James, a seemingly reckless, fearless expert who appears to have no regard for his own safety as we and his team watch him walk into every situation with arrogance and a carefree nature. It makes for frightening intense moments, and I did wonder if the guy was either nuts or had something medically wrong with him like a life threatening illness, as he seemed to not care if he got killed. This is where the movie focuses, and we are dropped fly on a wall style into this man’s life and experience first hand the risks he takes and the unimaginable evil he is up against. Kathryn Bigelow’s movie is shot through with a striking level of realism, that feels closer to a documentary than a Hollywood film, and has little of that artistic licence similar war movies like Black Hawk Down could be known for. For me, I felt the down and dirty grittyness was a bit overwhelming, and personally I prefer an injection of narrative and style to my movies, that while that isn’t to knock this movie in any way – it delivers some very powerful stuff and expertly handled tension – it means perhaps this was never going to pull me in as much as say, someone who has a real vested interest in all things Iraq.
Jeremy Renner must be commended though on such a powerful, believable performance with such a deep and complex character as Sergeant James, and every situation he is in jumps from the screen with heart-in-mouth tension. Ultimately though, this is Bigelow’s movie and her direction, although free of much of the gloss and style she is otherwise famed for has proved her to have matured over the years and can easily be spoken of in the same sentence as Ridley Scott and yes, James Cameron. Surely the best compliment you can give her.
Verdict: 4 /5