AbstractThis article argues that Kathryn Bigelow is an auteur of new action realism, a distinct sub-genre within contemporary action cinema. As a new action realist, Bigelow and her collaborators create films that feature unresolved narratives and an aesthetic characterised by claustrophobic immediacy and obscuration. Through discussion of theory, genre, narrative and style in The Hurt Locker (2008) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), I argue that, as a new action realist, Bigelow problematises notions of film realism. Bigelow’s work brings the viewer into intimate and 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, the graphic presentation creating a discomforting nearness which is partially created 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 and consequently presents a world of fear and paranoia that is simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, captured by and yet obscured by its medium.
CitationGaine, V.M. (2021) Kathryn Bigelow: new action realist. New Review of Film and Television Studies, 19 (3), pp. 330-347.
JournalNew Review of Film and Television Studies
DescriptionThis is an accepted manuscript of an article published by Routledge in New Review of Film and Television Studies on 02/09/2021. The accepted version of the publication may differ from the final published version.
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/