2008 R 130 minutes
Kathryn Bigelow directs this gripping drama (winner of the Best Picture Oscar) following one of the U.S. Army's elite EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) teams operating in the ferocious war zone of Iraq. As the squad identifies and dismantles improvised explosive devices and other bombs, they must also contend with the frayed nerves and internal conflicts that arise from living in constant peril. Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse and Guy Pearce star.
This is one of the most surprising Oscar winners in a while, in that it is dramatically disjointed and random, emotionally ambivalent, violent, and the ending is inconclusive. With no soldiering experience, I can only guess whether Jeremy Renner is convincing as a combat leader, but he is great fun to watch. I am mildly skeptical that an EOD squad can suddenly morph into a crack sniper team in combat, but Renner's acting in that scene is exactly what civilian leaders look like, anyway.
What I most appreciate is the paranoia of fighting a series of small battles while the local populous looks on implacably and inscrutably. Very scary. I also like how the Army psychiatrist serves as our civilized, rational, westernized eyes, completely at sea in the world of asymmetrical warfare. Great special effects, camera work and acting, and what seems like a smart script. 5 out of 5 stars.