I realized during the buildup to seeing The Hurt Locker that I have managed to see every one of Kathryn Bigelow’s feature films. Not that she has made all that many … seven in just over 20 years by my count. I have long championed Bigelow as one of my favorite directors, even though the truth is I don’t think she has come close to matching Near Dark, which came out all the way back in 1987. All of her movies have something to get my attention, and I like some more than others (Point Break is one I enjoy, as is K-19: The Widowmaker, which is the one where Bigelow got a $100 million budget and ended up with a box-office bomb, which is probably why The Hurt Locker, her next movie, cost only $11 million). Whatever the case, my interest in her movies has never wavered, even as they disappoint, and so I actually went to a movie theater to see The Hurt Locker when it came to town this weekend.
I’m glad I did. The Hurt Locker is Bigelow’s best movie since Near Dark, as she finally finds a subject that rewards her skills. She is a capable action filmmaker, and that’s more rare than you’d think. It’s also crucial to the success of The Hurt Locker, where, as several critics have pointed out, you always know who is where in relation to others (again, this is rare … think of how often you get pyrotechnic shootouts in movies where there is no real attempt to place the participants relative to each other). She takes her time telling her story here … you might say “nothing” happens, it’s more a character study than something driven by narrative … but the movie never feels too long, and it rarely lets up on the tense feelings it inspires from the audience. The acting is strong, in an action-speaks-louder-than-words way. Basically, Bigelow deserves the awards that are finally going to come her way. Near Dark will always be the Bigelow film closest to my heart, but it is a pleasure to be able to finally say that she has matched that excellent film.
(Here is a letterboxd list of Film Fatales movies.)