The Constant Gardener tells a somewhat conventional story about a man who tries to track down the people who murdered his wife and uncovers some dirty secrets about the pharmaceutical industry along the way. What could have easily been a ho-hum kind of movie, in the hands of Fernando Meirelles, the director of City of God — it shines.
César Charlone, the director of photography, and Claire Simpson, the editor, should get some credit, too. Altogether, they create a style, a look and feel, that is striking and dramatic on its own. The camera moves nervously and is always just a bit off-centre. The colours are either vibrant or a lifeless grey, often both at the same time. The editing has a strange, uncomfortable rhythm. Throw into the mix some actors like Ralph Fiennes who really know what they’re doing, and you’ve got yourself a pretty damn good movie. Fernando Meirelles has become a director I’ll watch just to see what he does next.
Watching The Hurt Locker is a nervous experience. It’s about an American explosive ordnance disposal team in Iraq. They defuse bombs. Big ones. That’s bad enough. But half the time they don’t know if the bomb has a timer; if one of the civilian spectators in the neighbourhood has a remote to set off the bomb; if a sniper is going to shoot at them; if some extremist is going to drive through the road block and blow everybody to kingdom come; or if some friendly Iraqi is going to walk up while all this is going on and say, “Hey, guys, where are you from?” Bad timing Mr. Friendly Iraqi. It’s just one intense situation after another, and it’s their job. It’s what they do every day. Within the first two minutes of The Hurt Locker, I felt like I was wearing the bomb suit, standing next to the bomb that’s ready to blow. The movie is pretty damn affective at making that reality real. It’s crazy.
Edward Havens writes: “To call The Hurt Locker anything less than one of the best action films to make it to the screen in many years would be a true disservice to its director, actors and technicians who made a movie that is miles above any recent movie it might be compared to.” The Hurt Locker is a high-octane action movie that relies on the psychological tension of the situations to create a rush that’s almost unbearable at times, and does so without being exploitive or glorifying. It’s a good movie.
UPDATE (July 09/09): As part of a marketing strategy, the first 8 minutes of The Hurt Locker have been made available online. It’s an intense 8 minutes that sets the tone for the rest of the movie, but watching it on a computer screen will diminish the theatrical experience. It also gives away too much.
I saw it last night and it’s not what I expected. It’s about hired killers who are told to hide out in a nowhere town in Belgium after a hit goes bad. It didn’t grab me at first because I was annoyed by the presence Colin Farrell. But I got more into it as it went on, and by the time I got to the end, I thought, “Wow, that was good.”