Released 2008 (Italy at the Venice Film Festival; released U.S. 2009)
American, in English (some mostly non-translated Arabic)
Director – Kathryn Bigelow
Stars – Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty
When an American bomb unit only 40 days out from completing their rotation in Iraq loses their team leader (Staff Sgt. Matt Thompson, played by Guy Pearce) in an explosion, they quickly find that their new leader, Sgt. 1st Class William James (Renner), is an unstable adrenaline junkie. Mackie and Geraghty co-star as the other team members, Sgt. J.T. Sanborn and Specialist Owen Eldridge, respectively.
Loads of blue language; lots of war-related violence.
It’s kind of slow.
Some of the camera work is too shaky. I realize that it’s a stylistic choice. It happens to be a stylistic choice that doesn’t normally bother me, but it did here.
I’ve never served in the military or been in a war, so I’ll say that this movie feels like what I imagine being in a war would feel like – tedium interspersed with high intensity, chaos, anger, and fear. I like that it doesn’t glorify war, even as some of the characters within it glorify it.
It can be intense in the good way. Not easy to watch but still tremendously satisfying.
I feel like there’s a character in this that everyone could relate to. Some of us would be the naïve Colonel John Cambridge (Christian Camago). Some of us would lack self-confidence and bravado, like Eldridge. Some of us would be a little bit crazy like James. Personally, I related most strongly to Sanborn, who, while scared out of his mind and desperate to stay alive, still strove to do his duty and protect his teammates to the very end.
When I saw this in the theater, I loved it. I felt like that was just yesterday, so it’s shocking to realize that it was some 5 years ago. This time around, I was a little bit bored. I don’t think the movie truly hits its stride – or perhaps makes it point – until the very end. I love the brief scenes of James trying and failing to re-acclimate to civilian life, especially the scene in the cereal aisle. Nearly twenty years ago, I lived in Germany for a year, where there were only two choices for cereal – cornflakes and Mueslix. When I got home to the U.S., I remember how overwhelming, and ridiculous, American grocery stores felt to me for a while. Therefore, that scene resonated very strongly with me. By the end of the film, I could understand why civilian life wasn’t enough for James any longer, why he was willing to risk death for a little excitement.
Anyway, while I wasn’t quite as enthralled this time around, I still enjoyed it. It’s a good film. And it’s really awesome to finally see a film directed by a woman win Best Picture. She’s also the first woman to win Best Director (while Loveleen Tandan shared a directing credit with Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire – she directed the scenes shot in India – she did not share the Best Director award with him).
I give the film 4 stars.