The Hurt Locker is one of those films that came and went without much fanfare, and then when all the awards nominations began to come out, it was on just about everyone’s list as best film of the year. (It received 9 Oscar nominations.) Fortunately, it is now out on DVD.

What sets this movie apart from most other “war films” is the silence. Instead of loud testosterone-driven battle scenes, The Hurt Locker is about the quiet, intense moments that are the norm for an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit (EOD), a squad charged with finding and defusing all kinds of bombs in Iraq. It is a three-man team and the film begins with one of their own getting blown to bits. This clears the way for SFC William James (Jeremy Renner) to take his place as the bomb-defusing specialist on the team. The two other men on the team (played by Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty) are there to provide him cover and are counting down the days until they get to go home, doing their best not to get killed. Sgt. James is not the same kind of team player that his predecessor was; he’s a lone wolf adrenaline junkie who collects souvenir scraps from all the bombs that he defuses and does not yearn to return to a quiet life stateside with his wife and kid.

Screenwriter Mark Boal’s experience as an embedded journalist in Baghdad serves him well in writing this story. And Director Kathryn Bigelow delivers some of the most tension filled scenes I’ve ever seen — not only when James is defusing bombs but also when the squad is searching for unexploded ordinance and watching out for insurgent bomb builders in a huge warehouse. There is only one real firefight which takes place in an isolated patch of desert, and it felt more real than most other movie shootouts in that our Army hero sharpshooters do not hit every shot. The three guys do ultimately bond and there is definitely some macho posturing, but it serves to define their individual characters.

As good as the other actors are, this is Jeremy Renner’s movie. It is about his journey and his Sgt. James sneaks up on you. He is more complex that you initially feel and by the end you sort of get him, despite his love of this life and death existence. This is not a movie for the faint of heart. Roosters will be into it for the bombs and buddy stuff. Chicks who enjoy a good character piece and who like edge of your seat well-crafted movies will appreciate it, too. I liked it because it was a story that takes place during a war, but was not about winning or losing. It was about the people who do the work.

Here’s a cool article about a unit in Afghanistan that does this kind of work.

2 thoughts on “The Hurt Locker”
  1. This was one of those movies that I meant to see while it was in the theater but missed. Then I was reminded of it first when Kathryn Bigelow took top honors at the DGA Awards (Yeah!) and then when the movie got so many Oscar nods. I agree with Arty Chick, this IS Jeremy Renner’s movie. He gives an outstanding performance playing a character who does a job so few people do or would ever want to. He lets us in on what makes Sgt. James tick (no pun intended although I’m sure Mainstream Chick will appreciate it anyway). Bigelow gives us a war movie that is not only devoid of the loud testosterone-driven battle scenes, as Arty Chick pointed out, but it is also devoid of politics — something unusual for Iraq War movies so far. I think that makes it all the more powerful. Definitely rent it, but be prepared, “The Hurt Locker” is intense.

    (Oh and I for one am a little tired of practically every story about Kathryn Bigelow playing up the fact that she used to be married to James Cameron. Enough already with the “battle of the exes” stuff.)

  2. I think it’s unanimous among the Chicks that “The Hurt Locker” is a unique and well-done film. Stylistically, it plays like a compelling documentary. I wasn’t completely blown away by the picture as a whole, so I don’t think it deserves “best picture” at the Oscars. But I do think Kathryn Bigelow succeeded in making a war movie that women can get into. And I appreciated her emphasis on the intensity, the quiet, and the psychological drama rather than the blood, guts and gore of war. Kudos also to Jeremy Renner, whose performance truly drives the film. A note of caution: If you’re watching it on the small screen, make sure you’ve got time, and no distractions. This is NOT the kind of movie you can hit ‘pause’ through and still fully appreciate.

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