by Jeffrey M. Anderson
In the great tradition of tough-guy filmmakers like Howard Hawks, Don Siegel and Samuel Fuller, Kathryn Bigelow is one of the finest living crafters of male-bonding genre films. It may seem an odd fit, as the beautiful, elegant, highly intelligent 57 year-old woman was educated at the San Francisco Art Institute with a background in painting; she's hardly the eye-patch-wearing, cigar-chomping type like her Hollywood predecessors. When I asked her about this duality in 2002, she responded with genuine puzzlement. Why would a woman want to make muscular action films? Frankly, why not?
Bigelow's latest, The Hurt Locker—easily one of the year's best films, based on journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal's interviews and experiences—revolves around the lives of three Army bomb techs (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty) in the last days of their Iraq tour, circa 2004. Yes, it's yet another right-here, right-now Iraq film, but it doesn't hurl any messages in our faces about the horrors or futility of war. It's not dreary, somber or self-serving. It's not about politics or politicians, wives or families, insurgents or Iraqis. Rather, we're presented with a sturdy combat film with lots of thrills and explosions and summertime-friendly action. It dares to suggest that, sure, war is hell, but it's not without its pleasures.