by Jeff Niesel
Among the mainstream movies opening this weekend, there's something for everyone, including horror (Orphan), romantic comedy (The Ugly Truth) and kids' stuff (G-Force). Over at the Cedar Lee Theatre, however, two terrific movies open this weekend: the war drama The Hurt Locker and the Zooey Deschanel vehicle (500) Days of Summer. Our reviews follow.
(500) Days of Summer This boy-meets-girl story has a nice twist to it. It's told out-of-order (like Memento) so you see the break-up happen early on. Normally, that would ruin any sort of suspense, but this dramedy (or "bromance," if you will) doesn't suffer for its out-of-sequence narrative. Rather, the relationship between Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is intriguing enough to make the movie worth watching. The plot is simple: Tom meets Summer and instantly falls in love. They start dating, but Summer makes it clear she isn't looking for a committed relationship. Tom accepts that at first. But it's not long before he becomes jealous and possessive. Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt have great chemistry, even if the tension between them sometimes makes it difficult to watch. It's got a terrific soundtrack too which prominently features the Smiths, the band whose music best exemplifies Tom's struggles. *** (Jeff Niesel)
The Hurt Locker Set in 2004, The Hurt Locker concerns an elite military unit (Delta Company) stationed in Baghdad whose job consists of scoping out and defusing bombs. Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner in a breakthrough performance that deserves to be remembered at awards time), the group's new leader, is a gung-ho cowboy whose seeming recklessness and disregard for "official" protocol scares the crap out of his team members (Anthony Mackie's Sanborn and Brian Geraghty's Eldridge). James is an adrenaline junkie. He thrives on danger and the narcotic-like exhilaration of always being one step away from harm's way. Back in the U.S., James' life seems hopelessly mundane by comparison (a visit to a supermarket sends him into temporary paralysis). Bigelow and Renner make it eminently clear that James is the type of guy who would probably shrivel up and die if he didn't have the addictive rush/high of combat that propels him from Point A to Point B. The quote from former New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges that opens the film — "war is a drug" — might seem like a reductive cheap shot if the evidence on screen weren't so damn persuasive. Whether it's ingrained in one's DNA or acquired through the experience of battle, Bigelow leaves for the audience to decide. One thing's certain, though: Nobody has yet come up with a methadone-like substitute to help wean vets like James away from that scary-and-it-feels-so-good corner of the sky. **** (Milan Paurich)