Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Hurt Locker

It took me quite a while to think of a film or scene that felt "real" to me, which was surprising. I finally decided to use the recent film The Hurt Locker (2008) for my example. The film follows a team of elite Army EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) technicians on their tour in modern day Iraq, with a heavily episodic structure. After the team suffers the death of their leader to an IED in the opening scene, they receive a wild and reckless replacement who compulsively dives into danger as if playing with death.

The Hurt Locker was filmed in a rough documentary style with mostly handheld shots. The use of a musical score is minimal, which isolate the scenes from external influence and emphasizes the scenes in which it is present. The film also uses a sense of pace that matches the events. I find this particularly in the scene in which the team finds themselves in a sniper exchange from extreme range along with a group of private military contractors. After the gunfight they wait and remain in position, and the pace slows way down as if to force the audience into the same tortuous and anxiety driven experience. These are all elements in which I believe contribute to the movie "feeling real".

I decided that there are two avenues in which a film can feel real. The first approach is to simply use accuracy and realism to attach the film to the real world. The second is use techniques that place the audience into the scene so as to experience it as participants. I make this distinction since I can not respectably attest to the accuracy of the film, but more importantly because I feel the film most effectively employs the second method I described. To me this film does a great job of embedding the audience into the episodic scenes. I believe one way it is able to do this is by only letting the audience know as much as the characters do at any given time. Rarely does the audiences experience exceed that of the characters'. For example, in the opening scene, the audience does not get to notice the suspicious character (who triggers the explosion) until any of the characters do.

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