Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Written by Mark Boal
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Evangeline Lilly
Combat veteran Sergeant First Class William James (Renner) has just been assigned as the new leader of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team in Iraq. Sanborn (Mackie) and Eldridge (Geraghty) immediate struggle to adjust to their new leader’s maverick style of operating. With their lives on the line, these men each struggle with their own inner-conflicts.
This Best Picture winner was written by Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty) and directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break). Bigelow earned an Oscar win for Best Director for her work. The stars of the film include Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy), Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau), and Brian Geraghty (Jarhead). Guy Pearce (Iron Man 3), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), David Morse (The Rock), and Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) add their names to this one as well.
This film earned Mark Boal an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for his depiction of the hidden cost of war. The writing does an excellent job immediately setting the stakes by which these soldiers live by. The characters all have their own strengths, but also carry a lot of baggage from their time in combat. The story mixes action and emotion in almost equal parts, giving the actors a lot to work with. The story also allows for the human side of the Iraqi people to show through. This elevates this movie in terms of the message being presented. I like the fact that this film doesn’t push a political agenda as much as much as it asks the audience to acknowledge the emotional toll of combat.
The acting in this film surprised me when I first saw this one. At the time, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty were unknown to me. Perhaps that’s part of what made this work so well. The idea that these might just be regular people really adds to the emotional performances they give. Renner is wonderful in the leading role, managing to push his character to the brink of insanity. He does a great job showing the strain of combat that continues even away from the battlefield. Anthony Mackie also does a great job in this one.
His performance seems to honestly acknowledge the stakes of war, as well as his own character’s wants and desires. Brian Geraghty is also great in this movie. He portrays his character as a complex person struggling to come to grips with the realities of his world in Iraq. The back and forth of his moods really adds something to the film. Together these three men really have great chemistry and bring out the complexity of the story. Jeremy Renner earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance.
Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, and Evangeline Lilly also do good work in this one. With their smaller roles, each of these actors seems to play a specific role in bringing out a part of the bigger message of the film. Lilly has a particularly difficult role as the wife of Sergeant James. Overall, the cast does nice work with a wonderful script.
The visuals in this film are very uniquely styled. The pace of the film is somewhat erratic, but it fits with the nature of the story and the visuals. Bigelow’s use of slow-motion sequences are especially interesting, seemingly designed to capture the raw power of the moments they’re used during. The cinematography and art direction for this film are also great. As a nod to the visuals, the film earned an Oscar win for Best Editing, and a nomination for Best Cinematography. The sound work in this film was also very successful. The film won Academy Awards for both Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. The film was also nominated for Best Original Score.
This film earned six Academy Awards in what might be described as a “surprising” award season. The film beat out big-budget competition from Avatar, Up, The Blind Side, Up in the Air, and many more great films. Bigelow’s win for Best Director made her the first woman to win the award. (She also beat her ex-husband James Cameron for the win.) This is a great war movie that should be seen by fans of the genre. I would also recommend this to any fans of Renner, Mackie, or Geraghty. I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.