RV!: Point Break (1991) Dir: Kathryn Bigelow Date Released: July 1991 Date Seen: July 24th, 2009 Rating: 2.5/5
229) The Hurt Locker (2008) Dir: Kathryn Bigelow Date Released: June 2009 Date Seen: July 26th, 2009 Rating: 3.75/5
As a storyteller, Kathryn Bigelow is not interested in accuracy, sacrificing precision of narrative detail for the sake of frenetic motion with alarming zeal. Her 1991 airhead actioner Point Break features cringe-inducing dialogue that lays bear its characters psychological need for bigger, more dangerous thrills with the delicacy of a steamroller. That token bluntness is a part of her characters' make-up, something that lends their respective characters a semblance of reality while inviting and earning scoffs for its knowing clumsinesss ("Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true," says Patrick Swayze's surfer outlaw Bodhi during a moment of dim-bulbed enlightenment).
No matter how much more polished Bigelow's 2008 Iraq War thriller The Hurt Locker is compared to Point Break, it's only slightly less blunt. Locker star Jeremy Renner is depicted by screenwriter Mark Boal with the frankness of a soldier trained to be as direct and unpolished in his thoughts and deeds as possible. When Renner's bomb squad crew try to talk him down from putting his life at risk for kicks, as in the final scene of interaction between Anthony Mackie and Renner, they reflect that lack of delicacy. Realistically, they seem more real as a supporting cast for it.
At the same time, the monotony of their concern for him turns his fragile psyche into a declarative statement instead of a nuanced condition to be observed. Renner and co. barrel through the episodes that make up their company's tour of duty gracelessly, which is to be expected in an action film. In this context, the character is not meant to grow nor become more complex over time because of his unforgiving setting but rather become more transparent in his goals. Never mind subtlety; mission accomplished.
Bigelow is however best recognized as a visual stylist because of her tense and glossy action scenes. In both the action scenes of both Point Break and The Hurt Locker you can see a joyful attention to unkempt motion that is startling in its rugged beauty. As showcases of Bigelow's skill, they're idiosyncratic and highly engaging displays of showmanship. They're also more immediately enticing than unnecessary talk about the dangers of being an adrenaline junkie. Transparency has its price, I guess.