Top 5 Kathryn Bigelow Movies You Can’t Miss

Bigelow started off with short films and then went on to direct her first full-length feature film ‘The Loveless’. At 65, Kathryn Bigelow has nine feature films under her belt and an Oscar on her mantle. There’s no denying the fact that she’s a trailblazer, both in terms of genre and gender. Even though she kept directing films, she wasn’t really noticed until ‘The Hurt Locker’, which catapulted her into one of the most sought after directors after she became the first female to win the Best Director Oscar. Her next film ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ turned out to be an even better film and had the controversy not marred that film, we could have seen her win Best Picture again.

Her subjects range from biker gangs to vampires to law enforcement with pacing that ranges from meditative to action-packed. She has one of the most varied and compelling filmographies of contemporary cinema, and arguably the most thought-provoking. This maverick style led to her winning not only a cult following but also industry recognition as the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director.

An anti-classicist at heart, Bigelow’s visual narrative style pushes viewers over the edge of complacency and engages them with vibrant, topical issues. Her technique subverts genre norms with different results each time out. Checkout some of her best films till date:

Blue Steel (1990)

“Sun’ll be up soon.”

The above line occurs late in this, after Jamie Lee Curtis’ Megan Turner has been attacked and raped by Ron Silver’s Eugene Hunt, in a sequence that goes far, far beyond the boundaries of ferocity usually observed in cop vs killer action movies. It’s a throwaway, unimportant piece of dialogue, at least on the surface, but when you start thinking about this as a horror movie, and of Silver’s character as a werewolf, it begins to suggest an expanded significance. Like his more traditional lycanthropic brethren, Hunt seems to be a normal person before he catches the curse from a tainted soul. He doesn’t get it from a bite, but instead from a gun, and before he knows it he’s become enslaved by impulses that he can’t control or even understand.

Point Break (1991)

The plot concerns young F.B.I. agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) infiltrating a surfer gang suspected of perpetrating a slew of “Ex-Presidents” robberies (in which they wore masks of ex-presidents). The movie’s two big sequences – a foot chase through the back streets and a skydiving stunt – are amongst the finest in the genre. Kathryn Bigelow takes some key pointers from then hubby James Cameron and paces the movie brilliantly. There are many key moments of unique action – that chute-less jump from 4,000 feet being the highlight – delivering kinetic thrills that leave you on the edge of your seat; but it is the cumulative effect of bringing these moments together that adds to the picture. For so many films the denouement is a gross failure but Bigelow controls the films peaks and troughs expertly and the ending is genuinely well handled, something that appears to be a real struggle for Hollywood today. Point Break is a sun drenched slice of genre gold.

Strange Days (1995)

Set in pre-apocalyptic 1999, the plot follows Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes), an ex-cop who now deals with data-discs containing recorded memories and emotions. One day he receives a disc which contains the memories of a murderer killing a prostitute. Lenny investigates and is pulled deeper and deeper in a whirl of blackmail, murder and rape. Will he survive and solve the case? Bigelow twists audience expectations with Hitchcockian results. Underneath the aforementioned convoluted plot and futuristic noir trappings, “Strange Days” also provides some of the most thought-provoking social commentary on race and the over-militarized police state in American movies.

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Bigelow became the only woman to ever win the Best Directing Oscar for this movie, and it is oh-so deserved. A smaller movie, using almost entirely handheld, veritae-style camerawork and a nihilistic and exhilarating lead performance from Jeremy Renner. The story follows Renner’s character on the military’s bomb squad in Iraq diffusing improvised explosive devices. Winner of 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture, The Hurt Locker is a highly gripping and intensely thrilling war drama that’s expertly crafted, masterly composed and skilfully narrated from start to finish with firm grip on the very element of suspense; the movie delivers an experience that’s destined to keep the viewers on the edge of their seats throughout its run-time.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

In her second installment of contemporary wartime drama (one of the least marketable genres), Bigelow shakes things up again and turns her lens to the hunt for Osama bin Laden, specifically (and arguably) as the woman behind it. Whereas “The Hurt Locker” focused on interrelationships and reflected the ambiguity of the Iraq War’s goals, “Zero Dark Thirty” powers ahead with the direct mission of finding Osama bin Laden through any means: questioning high-ranking officials, waterboarding, or going it alone. Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s controversial drama is about a distant and defiant operative recruited straight out of college and thrust immediately into the investigation for America’s number one bogeyman. The film follows her ten year battle following spurious bread crumb leads and dead ends, butting heads with superiors and discovering first-hand the human cost of the war on terror.  The film has been plagued by vocal detractors criticising its stance on torture whilst the war on terror still remains a contentious subject for politicians and public alike. It is therefore a film that is impossible to evaluate on its own merits as it is intrinsically linked to the politics of our age.

That’s all folks!

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