Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Hurt Locker

It's official, my brain is broken. At least the part of my brain that I use for writing/revising my manuscripts and for thinking of topics for this blog. If it's not broken, it's certainly on strike.

So, I thought I'd talk about one of the films I saw at the TIFF. I saw some really good films this year, although none of them totally blew me away. This year I didn't come out of the fest babbling about any films in particular. Seems like there were a lot of mob films and films based on true stories and films about war.

One of the good war ones was The Hurt Locker, about a team of bomb defusal experts in Iraq. I think the best part of this film was the performance of the lead actor, Jeremy Renner, whom I've seen before, but never really paid much attention to. If this film is any indication, he could have a real career ahead of him. As I type this, I'm half-watching Renner in The Assassination of Jesse James.... which I saw at the fest last year, but didn't recognize him from that until I looked him up. Oooo his character in Jesse James just got shot in the head. Oooo. He just got dumped naked into a snowy hole. Damn, if that's really his body, he's got a great butt.

But The Hurt Locker has more going for it than the performances (and great butts). I found it interesting from a storytelling perspective, too because, at least based on my cursory first viewing in the middle of a marathon week of films, it doesn't really have a standard screenplay structure. No clear hero with a goal, no clear character arc, no escalating narrative, no single evil bomber they're trying to stop, no explicit turning points. At least not in a typically obvious way. Yet it worked for me.

The screenplay is based on events witnessed by a journalist who was embedded with the troops in Iraq so by nature it's episodic, but what the filmmaker, Kathryn Bigelow, did that was smart was to add a ticking clock type of structure to the film, which essentially gives all the characters the identifiable goal of: survive x more days. At the beginning of each vignette, we're told how many more days until the end of the company's tour, so it becomes about surviving until then, with each dangerous situation having the potential to either kill them or take them one day closer to going home. Seems to me a ticking clock plot device is a smart one to use for a film about defusing bombs.

I don't want to spoil it, so I won't say how, but the ending uses the ticking clock, too, in a way that was clever and true to the character, if not in a very Hollywood ending kind of way. This film won't be for everyone -- certainly not as commercial as some of this filmmaker's other films like Point Break, but I for one was riveted from beginning to end and was really taken by the performances.


Anonymous said...

It's definitely one of the films I've heard mentioned from the fest, and the name Jeremy Renner has come up as well.
I remember him from Swat, bad movie, and he played the bad guy, but I remembered him, so he was OK in it.

Excited to see the movie...

Molly O'Keefe said...

wow -- sounds like an awesome device to me! The ticking bomb literally! I love it - what a clever idea. I wish I was clever...i wish I had an idea...

I haven't heard anything from the festival (due to the baby cave) but I've been lusting after Apaloosa, big time.

Michele Ann Young said...

I'll keep a look out for it. Maureen you are so good a figuring out story.

I was supposed to catch some of the films with daughter this year but the ticking clock of a deadline kept me tied to my computer. lol.

Molly, baby caves are like editor caves. Hope things are getting a little easier and you have the start of a routine. Aah, but so worth it. Believe me, she'd a baby now, but one day she will be a friend.

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