Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Year Released: 2008
Episodic Iraq Occupation film follows around three young men on the Bomb Squad Unit (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty) as they're (frequently) called to disarm a seemingly endless supply of crude explosives in and around the city of Baghdad. Bigelow is a marvelous technician - the action scenes are tense and meticulously set-up - but the movie's refusal to even bother touching on political issues is a huge negative: it does little to veil its disgust for the Iraqis ("they all look the same"), who are turned into 'the Other,' a mindless medley of leering schemers, bomb makers and cowardly commoners (the professor that loves the Agency, the man with bombs strapped to him that needs 'Our Help'). Subtitles aren't included because 'their' language is irrelevant; when a psychiatrist ("from Yale") tries to "reason" with the Iraqis and be polite, he's killed because of it: you can't reason with 'these people.' But it does carry visceral, non-intellectual thrills: it's a series of meticulously constructed set pieces that feature a wide variety of obstacles for our heroes to solve: like the XBox game played by Geraghty, there are 'levels' and 'obstacles' to deal with (it's video game ready!) and features an impressive performance by Renner as the suicidal thrill junkie/lifer who lives for the next challenge ("Achievement unlocked. Insurgents neutralized.").