The Hurt Locker (2009)
What is it? Sgt. James (Jeremy Renner) is a bomb disposal expert brought in to join a team working in Iraq in the aftermath of the War. At any moment he and his team could be called upon to deal with explosive devices large and small - but it soon becomes clear that James takes more risks than he needs to...
Why did it win? It deals with important subject matter (the continuing body count of the Iraq War) but in a way that didn't feel hackneyed or too political: unlike other films surrounding the War (Lions for Lambs; In The Valley of Elah) this doesn't approach the rights or wrongs of US policy. This is a character study, and a tense, compelling one at that.
Did it deserve to win? This was a true underdog story, because The Hurt Locker is the lowest-box-office-grossing Best Picture winner of all time and was up against the highest grossing film of all time. It's arguable that Avatar will change the Hollywood game more, or that Up would have been a worthy first animated winner, but it's hard to dispute The Hurt Locker's dramatic weight, assured writing and direction and brilliant filmmaking. So yes, this deserved it - and it's nice to see that Hollywood didn't plump, cynically, for the box office titan and (presumably) ratings winner.
Worth a look? If you're one of the millions who didn't see it in the cinema, you owe it to yourself to find the DVD.