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Kathryn Bigelow: new action realist

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2/09/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>New Review of Film and Television Studies
Issue number3
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)330-347
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article argues that Kathryn Bigelow is an auteur of new action realism, a distinct sub-genre within contemporary action cinema. Bigelow’s films entail unresolved narratives and an aesthetic characterised by claustrophobic immediacy and obscuration. Through discussion of theory, genre, narrative and style in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, I argue that Bigelow problematises notions of film realism. Bigelow’s work brings the viewer into sometimes uncomfortable proximity with the violent action depicted onscreen, this proximity being a key feature of new action realism. The presentation is explicit and sudden, creating a discomforting nearness through immediacy. Such imagery, particularly evident in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, echoes footage captured by military personnel, news reporters and civilians on portable cameras and smart phones, recalling news reports of 9/11 and similar reports of crisis. With this aesthetic of intimacy and immediacy, Bigelow’s new action realism hints at as much as it explicitly presents. This incomplete visual display imbues her films with a sense of confusion and hopelessness, presenting a world of fear and paranoia that is simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, captured by and yet obscured by its medium.