THE HURT LOCKER:

There’s a scene in JARHEAD (2005) where Jamie Foxx’s (RAY) career soldier relates all of the civilian opportunities he passed on because “I … love … this … job.” From his first appearance on, Jeremy Renner’s (NORTH COUNTRY) bomb defusing specialist in Iraq is shown not only enjoying his work but feeding off its risk of potential sudden and violent death. Coupled with Kathryn Bigelow’s (POINT BREAK) taut direction and tight editing from Chris Innis and Bob Murawski, Renner’s understated acting is offset by his more emotionally reactive team members (Brian Geraghty, Anthony Mackie) which makes for some intensely suspenseful sequences throughout the movie. Of note, too, is the ominous musical score from Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders, which significantly contributes to building maximum tension in key scenes. The chaos of combat and the desolate, oppressively hot and dusty Iraqi setting are convincingly photographed and conveyed by Barry Ackroyd’s hand-held camerawork. In fact, everything about this movie is well-done and will merit serious recognition during the end of the year award season. Even if it does take place against the backdrop of military conflict, this film is more of a character study of a mindset that moves toward risking life and limb when everybody else is running away from it. That Renner’s character feels more at home cradling a set of cluster bombs than his infant son says all you need to know about why he’s a perfect match for his military profession. But what makes Renner so memorable, not to mention being the force that drives this excellent film is the complexity, depth and range that he brings to a character addicted to cheating death. That we ultimately never really know why he’s this way serves to make him a more fascinating if enigmatic figure.

GOOD MOVIES DIRECTED/WRITTEN BY JOHN HUGHES WHO DIED TWO WEEKS AGO: NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION (1983), SIXTEEN CANDLES (1984), THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985), PRETTY IN PINK (1986), FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986), PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES (1987), SHE’S HAVING A BABY (1988), UNCLE BUCK (1989), NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989) HOME ALONE (1990)