That “The Hurt Locker” Is Only Marginally Better than “Point Break”

January 27, 2010

That “The Hurt Locker” is only marginally better than “Point Break” is a fact that becomes clearer on repeat viewings of both films. This is not a knock against “The Hurt Locker,” the Best Picture contender for which Kathryn Bigelow is justifiably considered the favorite to win Best Director; rather, consider it a vote of confidence in “Point Break,” a cult film most famous for having bank robbers don rubber masks of ex-presidents (Patrick Swayze’s Reagan is particularly chilling).

The theme of both movies is “to thine own self be true.” Jeremy Renner’s character in “The Hurt Locker” needs to arrive at a greater understanding of his self in order to be at peace, never mind the social consequences, and both Reeves’ Johnny Utah and Swayze’s Bodhi (short, of course, for Bodhisattva) need to reach their inner selves in order to find enlightenment. Reeves’ search for his self is expressed on film via his love for Lori Petty’s Tyler. The two are made to look nearly identical, and the romance shifts from an expression of Utah’s narcissism to an embrace of a totally different persona. Meanwhile, Bodhi’s spirituality is increasingly contrasted with his destructive actions.

The presidents masks, then, are not just rejections of consumerism and pithy critiques of politics, but invitations to look below the beautiful exteriors. Bodhi lives up to the symbolism of his name, though perhaps not in the ways we expect. Meanwhile, Keanu Reeves wears no mask while undercover. He hides in plain sight, behind his old identity. Like Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”, he rejects the mask or giant protective suit. Theirs is a sort of open-key encryption.

Both movies have excellent action sequences and cinematography. Bigelow maximizes tension, giving a sense of unpredictability to the movies even when you know that it’s far too early for something drastic to happen. Neither film has excellent dialogue; the characters in “Point Break” speak in a late-80s version of stylized noir speech, filled with pithy comments, while the dialogue in “The Hurt Locker” is mostly flat and uninteresting. With another director, this would be a problem, but Bigelow’s aesthetic is one of physicality. Her characters’ movements say more than their dialogue ever could. Sexual tension powers the violence, charging it. Her characters are instinctual, coming alive in motion.

No, “The Hurt Locker” is only a marginally better movie, and ultimately this tells us more about how good “Point Break” is then it tells us about “The Hurt Locker.”

One Response to “That “The Hurt Locker” Is Only Marginally Better than “Point Break””

  1. […] if you’re of the opinion that The Hurt Locker is only marginally better than Point Break (as one area movie blogger recently argued), it’s […]

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