Best of the Decade, No. 96: The Hurt Locker

If filmmakers took their time before jumping on Vietnam, Hollywood was determined to report on Operation Enduring Freedom as it was happening. Indeed, rarely has mainstream film jumped on contemporary events so quickly. Audiences stayed away in droves, but history will hopefully one day return to films like Redacted and The Battle of Haditha. Those movies had points to prove. Kathryn Bigelow’s canny thriller prefers to tie her issues up in the sheer visceral routine of a bomb disposal unit. Locker first and foremost deserves to be celebrated for its suspense sequences—Jeremy Renner’s first day in the field could have made Hitchcock’s palms sweat, while the dispatch of a sniper seems set in the same absurdist desert where Bunuel planted St. Simon of the Stylites. Bigelow emphasizes stress over pyrotechnics. While big name stars are hurriedly put into the ground, the real casualty in this movie is American manhood and the audience’s nervous system. The most enduring image of the film, however, might just be when Renner’s cowboy sergeant returns to the United States and stands bewildered in front of a massive wall of cereal boxes.

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