"The Hurt Locker" opened today to some of the strongest reviews for a movie this year. The Iraq war drama about a bomb squad earned a jaw-dropping 91 among the reviews surveyed by Metacritic, and the aggregate score of top critics at Rotten Tomatoes came in at a still-impressive 89.
Among those most enthusiastic about the Kathryn Bigelow-helmed movie was Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly, who called the film "an intense, action-driven war pic, a muscular, efficient standout that simultaneously conveys the feeling of combat from within as well as what it looks like on the ground." She raved about the lead performance of Jeremy Renner (photo, right) as a bomb disposal specialist and noted, "Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes make brief, jolting cameo appearances as similar risk-takers."
New York Times critic A.O. Scott thought "The Hurt Locker" "is the best nondocumentary American feature made yet about the war in Iraq." As he explains, "The movie is a viscerally exciting, adrenaline-soaked tour de force of suspense and surprise, full of explosions and hectic scenes of combat, but it blows a hole in the condescending assumption that such effects are just empty spectacle or mindless noise."
For Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, "'The Hurt Locker' has the killer impact of the explosive devices that are the heart of its plot: It simply blows you apart and doesn't bother putting you back together again. Overwhelmingly tense, overflowing with crackling verisimilitude, it's both the film about the war in Iraq that we've been waiting for and the kind of unqualified triumph that's been long expected from director Kathryn Bigelow."
And Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal said, "The film, which was written by Mark Boal, manages to be many things at once – a first-rate action thriller, a vivid evocation of urban warfare in Iraq, a penetrating study of heroism and a showcase for austere technique, terse writing and a trio of brilliant performances. Most of all, though, it’s an instant classic that demonstrates, in a brutally hot and dusty laboratory setting, how the drug of war hooks its victims and why they can’t kick the habit."
"The Hurt Locker" is the first feature film for Bigelow since the 2002 misfire "K-19: The Widowmaker." The enthusiastic endorsements by many of the nation's leading film critics make the movie a near certainty to appear on many of their top 10 lists at year-end. And with the Oscars expanding the best picture race to 10 nominees, a small but passionate constituency among academy members for "The Hurt Locker" could elevate it to contender status.
Photo credit: Summit Entertainment