Careful readers will note the absence here of American independent films of the Sundance stripe — those sensitive dramas in which an outsider connects with home truths. I find most of them a little too aware of their worthiness, as well as structurally and cinematically timid. (No, not you two, Synecdoche, New York and The Squid and the Whale; you were swell.) I want my naturalism with a bang, and I got it with this scary, thrilling war movie about a U.S. Army bomb-defusing squad in Iraq, c. 2005. Mark Boal’s taut script focuses on one GI (Jeremy Renner, superb) who tersely insists on doing his own thing, which is to keep little pieces of Baghdad from blowing up. First shown in Sept. 2008 at the Venice Film Festival, The Hurt Locker took a while to make its impact in the U.S., but the movie and its director, Kathryn Bigelow, have dominated the year-end critics’ awards. If the shower of prizes ends with her becoming the first woman to win an Oscar as best director (over her ex-husband, James Cameron), that’d be OK too.
Next Moulin Rouge!