Kathryn BigelowUSA131 minutes2009ColourEnglish
Seven years after the flop of K-19, Bigelow returned with a vengeance with The Hurt Locker, which became one of the year's most acclaimed American films — and an historical milestone to boot when Bigelow picked up the Best Director Oscar for the film (which also took home Best Picture), making her the first and so far only woman to ever receive that honour. The Hurt Locker focuses on Sgt. Will James (Jeremy Renner, in a star-making performance), the new team leader in a US Army bomb-disposal unit in Iraq. As reckless as he is fearless, James elicits both the admiration and the antagonism of his fellow squad members, who feel that his heedlessness in the face of danger will eventually put all of their lives in jeopardy. Largely eschewing any political viewpoint on the Iraq occupation or the "War on Terror," Bigelow instead keeps her razor-sharp focus on James — the most perfectly realized and chillingly authentic example of the risk addicts/adrenaline junkies who have long fascinated the director — to create one of cinema's most perceptive studies of men who don't just fight wars, but love them.