After the Nairobi mall attack, I felt like watching some terrorists get killed. Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life, Take Shelter) gets help from her torturer friend Jason Clarke (killer of Gatsby), follows the trail left by informants to identify Bin Laden’s personal messenger, sees her friend Jennifer Ehle (Contagion) get blown up following a false lead, traces the messenger’s cellphone, follows him to a compound, spends years convincing her dumb bosses (first Katy’s TV football coach Kyle Chandler, then Mark Strong of Tinker Tailor) to invade it, then sends a Seal team (featuring Brolin-looking Gatsby star Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt of Parks & Rec). They crash one helicopter but still have two others, shoot Bin Laden in the face, and take off.
First feature of Bigelow’s I’ve seen (and only the third she’s made) since Strange Days in the mid-90’s. As good/intense as they say. Plot is just a series of dangerous situations strung together, with minimal character/story crap getting in the way – and I say that as a compliment. Doughy-faced star Jeremy Renner (seen him before in two not-so-good movies), replacing a blown-up Guy Pearce, defuses bombs with his team Anthony Mackie (charismatic star of Spike Lee’s forgotten She Hate Me) and Brian Geraghty (hundredth-billed in Art School Confidential). David Morse shows up to talk (where’s he been since The Green Mile?) and Raifffienes plays a desert bounty hunter (pffft, “security contractor”) who catches a bullet to the neck during an ambush.
Geraghty, Mackie, Pearce:
Movie builds tension further by counting down the days (30-some) till the company is relieved – keeping in mind that movies historically love to kill army guys when their tour is almost up, or kill cops a few days away from retirement (see also: Exiled). Jeremy goes a little mad chasing after a boy who sells bootleg DVDs, thought dead so a revenge plan is set in motion, it goes wrong, then the boy shows up alive and well. Brian gets kidnapped and shot, but the three guys live. Renner can’t deal with home/family life (shades of The War Tapes), re-enlists in the final scene, with a chilling “365 days left in tour” title card.
J. Renner assesses the situation, find it unsatisfactory:
It’s unsurprising that cinematographer Barry Ackroyd works with Paul Greengrass, but curious that he also shot The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
Since we didn’t see this when it played theaters this summer, I skipped all the articles about it. Found one still lingering on Bright Lights, arguing that it “combines two cinematic subgenres that no one ever thought to put together before – the bomb disposal film, and another subgenre that has scarcely been recognized as such, the Steve McQueen military film.” Apparently I must see The Small Back Room, a Powell/Pressburger British/Nazi Hurt Locker.