Director: Kathryn Bigelow Release Date: 28/08/09 Link: IMDB An Intensely Passionate Look at the Iraq War Kathryn Bigelow is one of the few female directors to have established herself as an artistic force to be reckoned with in the film industry, and this is something of which she can and should be very proud. With Near Dark in 1987 and Point Break in 1991, she became an important female director in the industry, one who did not make films that were uniquely feminine but films which were genuinely good. Kathryn Bigelow is no Nora Ephron. But it is her 1995 effort Strange Days which I have always liked the most – apocalyptic, experimental, intense, and, yes, strange, the movie is a highly underrated tour de force which, I think, puts Kathryn Bigelow in a different league of directors. And with her latest effort, this year's The Hurt Locker, she has made an equally good, but for entirely different reasons, film. The Hurt Locker is an untraditional war film and the first truly good work of art to rise out of Operation Iraqi Freedom – with a leading cast of little-known actors, Bigelow creates an atmosphere that is equally intense, emotional, and engaging. It does not try to make a political statement – its praise for our men fighting overseas is abundant, but the cautions of war are also present – and it does not try to be an overly philosophical ouvre d'art. It is, at its roots, a story well-told. But the story is not told traditionally. With the handheld camera, cinematographer Barry Ackroyd assists the story-telling technique, or lack thereof. The story is not laid out for the audience to understand as Acts I, II, and III. There is no real rising or falling action or any formula – the film is played off as a series of events caught on camera, with the shaky-cam providing a documentary feel and the actors' anonymity and authenticity of performance also adding to this tone. The film is about a small group of Iraqi troops whose main task is to disarm bombs – there is the reckless but talented James (Jeremy Renner) and team members JT Sanborn and Owen Eldridge. There are cameo-type roles played by more notable actors like Guy Pearce, David Morse, and Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes has a brief but memorable stint as a British team leader – he previously starred in Bigelow's Strange Days and is one of my favorite actors. I was very pleased when he came on screen. The acting is all very well-done – it's consistently authentic, never melodramatic, and nuanced enough to move the characters away from the stereotypes they seemed to have been written as. Credit is due both to the director and to the actors. Bigelow has created a film that is smart but not loud – it is the Anderson Cooper to the Glenn Beck that has been most other Iraq War films (Home of the Brave anyone?). With this and In The Loop coming out this summer, there seems to hope for modern war films (serious or satiric – although 2006's American Dreamz was very funny). To create a film that asks questions but does not try and supply the answers in this current political climate is brave. And it is this attitude which makes The Hurt Locker so engaging – it presents the grey area in between both sides and allows the audience to digest it as they wish, undoubtedly sparking conversation and hopefully a little bit more understanding.