Director: Kathryn Bigelow Release date: 28 August Review by Scott Murphy Kathryn Bigelow seem to be slowly working through film genres. She’s done horror (Near Dark), action (Point Break), thriller (Blue Steel) sci-fi (Strange Days) and now war with this film. Not only this but Bigelow is one of only a couple of famous female directors working today. Due to its subject matter this film was also a risk. While there have been plenty of successful films World War II and several critically acclaimed films about the Vietnam War including Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, Full Metal Jacket and Platoon, there have not been many on the subject of the Iraq war. Whether this is because it is too soon, because of general audience apathy in the face of so much news coverage or maybe they just aren't that good. Of course, it could be a mixture of all three but what is known is that all the major pictures set in the Iraq war (In the Valley of Elah, Redacted, Stop-loss, Home of the Brave) have been commercial flops and had distinctly lukewarm critical receptions. With all this, why bother to make another film set in the Iraq war? Why would you want to see it? Well, because it is excellent is the main reason. Also while other movies have been more dry and try to make grand political statements (often an admirable but misguided step), this film deliver’s more action while also gives a neutral view point of the war through the eyes of the soldiers. The story begins in 2004, during the early stages of the post-invasion Iraq. Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) becomes the team leader of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit with the U.S. Army’s Bravo Company, replacing Staff Sergeant Thompson (Guy Pearce), who was killed by a remote-detonated improvised explosive device (IED) in Baghdad. We soon find out that James is a man of action and a bit of a recluse, who is considered dangerous by the rest of his team, Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) but is hailed as an all-conquering hero. But what could have been a macho cliché becomes something more substantial, as we delve further in to the character of James. He befriends a child street seller named Beckham, who he tries to avenge after he believes has been made into a “body bomb.” James seems unable to deal with life, only coming alive in the midst of war, something we see through the relationship he has with his wife, and Renner gives a stellar performance This is not to take away from the performances of Mackie and Geraghty who also do well in their roles. It is not just the acting that is good though as this film is truly the full package, the direction is great, the cinematography is raw and visceral, the dialogue is cleverly written and it all cracks along at a fair pace. This film is highly recommended, you will be excited, shaken and drained by the end of the movie, truly one of the best films of 2009. Rating:8/10