Its taken its time, but I think the first good Iraq movie is here (Iraq mark two of course, as Three Kings was a pretty good movie.) Its a simple film I think, and definitely more interested in the action of the situation rather the politics or humanity of it. Which is fine if done well, and for the large part it is here. This is probably thanks to its director Kathryn Bigelow, who is one of the better handlers of on screen action, but has been MIA since the decidedly average K-19 bombed in 2002. This is a great comeback movie, gripping and dripping with testosterone from start to finish, as almost all of Bigelow's films do.
The film follows the trails of a bomb disposal unit, most specifically Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner), who is a sort of half-crazy lone-wolf type of fighter, terrific at what he does but reckless to the last and in so doing a danger to his men. Its a quality performance by Renner, who has been flirting with success for a while without ever really breaking through. After this though hopefully more doors will be open for him because he's certainly talented. Also on task are Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Sgt. Eldridge ( Brian Geraghty) the former a stiff upper lipped by the books kind of soldier, with an underlying resentment cooking away whilst Eldridge is unable to deal with all the death around him and as the bodies pile up he begins to wear thin. Mackie gives a strong performance, unflashy and to the point but that compliments both Renner and the film itself. Geraghty is OK, not great but not particularly noticeable either. There are some fun cameos too, from Dexter alum Christian Camargo as a bookish high ranking officer to Ralph Fiennes briefly turning up as a badass British team commander. Guy Pearce almost steals the film in his one scene early on and there's even a walk on part for Lost's Evangeline Lilly. Although she doesn't really get to say or do anything. Bigelow holds the film together mostly shooting it in a faux documentary style that has become so popular with war films of late, but allowing for the occasional moment of style and a couple of instances of super-slo mo. But few capture action better then Bigelow and as a result the film is entertaining as it is harrowing, which it certainly is at times.
A well-made, tightly written war film with a good eye for the set-piece and a good understanding of its characters. One of the stronger examples of a film of this type in a while.