The Hurt Locker (2008)

The Hurt Locker (2008)
  • Time: 131 min
  • Genre: Drama | Thriller | War
  • Director: Kathryn Bigelow
  • Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, Evangeline Lilly


An intense portrayal of elite soldiers who have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world: disarming bombs in the heat of combat. When a new sergeant, James, takes over a highly trained bomb disposal team amidst violent conflict, he surprises his two subordinates, Sanborn and Eldridge, by recklessly plunging them into a deadly game of urban combat. James behaves as if he’s indifferent to death. As the men struggle to control their wild new leader, the city explodes into chaos, and James’ true character reveals itself in a way that will change each man forever.


  • The sandy streets of Iraq are where this story begins. A potential IED (improvised explosive device) has been planted, and our guys have been called. After using a remote-controlled device that fails, the soldier decides to plant detonators personally. On goes the giant suit that will “protect” him from the blast, and up goes the intensity. The detonators have been set, with our man still in the kill zone, and WAIT… there’s a man with a cell phone! With guns brandishing and warnings being yelled, the other soldiers charge the potential bomber. Then…BOOM…a burst of explosives disperses over the street, and the suit believed to be protective could not perform inside such a close proximity. This is just the first scene in the film The Hurt Locker, and this suspense is but a taste of what is to follow.

    We then meet a new member of the bomb squad, Sergeant First Class William James, who has reportedly disarmed 873 bombs in his military career. From his moment moments in front of us, we can already see his reckless yet statistically successful approach to his duty. On his very first call as a member of his new team, James cuts off communications with his teammates and takes off his protective gear; saying “If I’m gonna die, I want to die comfortably.” It is this brashness that puts him at odds with his fellow soldiers, particularly Sergeant JT Sanborn (Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Geraghty). Following this first piece of evidence portraying the risky antics of James, his teammates and him grow further apart and, for the rest of the movie, the company struggles with this. When the team’s deployment has come to a close, they return to their homes and families. We then see that civilian life does not suit James, and that he simply wants to do the one thing that he is best at: disarming bombs, and this is what we see as the film cuts to a close.

    I thought that this is a great film that portrays real military life and the hardships that go along with it; which has been a regularity in the work of director Kathryn Bigelow (see Zero Dark Thirty).
    Showing that a woman can direct a war movie just as good as a man, Bigelow does a great job at the helm of this film. This realistic portrayal of war, coupled with great acting by Jeremy Renner, helps the public understand the psychological tolls and other effects that war has those who engage in it. Renner is at the top of his game in this film, and he received an Oscar nomination as a result. Excluding the nomination that was just mentioned, this film was nominated for nine Oscars and won six of them (Picture, Directing, Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing). This is, in my opinion, one of the best films to cover the American military involvement in Iraq in the past decade.

    The suspense was dispersed throughout the movie, which left some lulls in the movie. A great performance by an actor can’t always carry a film through slow moments.

  • The action woman is back with The Hurt Locker. Kathryn Bigelow, the director of Point Break (1991) and Strange Days (1995), returns to top form with this critically-acclaimed war picture after the flop of K19: The Widowmaker (2002). Filmed in Jordan, The Hurt Locker is set in Iraq during its recent American invasion a few years back.

    It follows a team of three U.S soldiers whose daily job is to defuse unexploded bombs or to tackle bomb threats. In this team, there is one specialist who suits up in protective gear and goes right up to the bomb to nullify its threat while his buddies provide defensive cover for him from a distance.

    The Hurt Locker builds upon the principle of suspense filmmaking and nothing else. The fear of a bomb exploding remains to be one of the most surefire ways to induce queasiness in cinemagoers. Here, Bigelow employs an array of film techniques (some excellent, some flawed) to intensify that fear, cranking the tension to at times unbearable levels.

    In the opening scene, she shows her action credentials in perhaps the film’s most outstanding set-piece – a slow build-up of suspense which accumulates in a massive, heart-thumping explosion. With such an impressive introduction, it takes a great director to follow-up and maintain the interest of his viewers.

    Bigelow, however good she is, is not a great filmmaker. She manages to sustain the suspense for most parts, but because of the lack of a driving plot and the overuse of the ‘shaky’ camera approach, her film becomes less interesting over the course of two hours.

    Unlike most war films, The Hurt Locker has no story but only a series of chronological accounts of men in endless bomb-threat scenarios. Perhaps the only form of ‘narrative sense’ that could be observed is that the film intends to show the futility of war through its unpredictability.

    How does one preserve his sanity in such a vocation? “Don’t think about it,” says the lead character James (Jeremy Renner) who has defused more than eight hundred bombs in his career. In a fairly ironic scene late on, James, having had to choose a box cereal for his family, becomes overwhelmed by the sheer number of different brands available on the shelves of the supermarket.

    For once, he is stunned because he has ample time to make a decision and that he ‘thinks about it’. “Is my decision the best? Did I choose correctly? Hell, I’d rather defuse a bomb than choose a box of cereal!” his blank stare seems to suggest.

    Bigelow’s overuse of the ‘shaky’ camera becomes nauseating after a while, even though it is essential to a certain extent in creating the docu-realism feel which plays a part in the heightening of the suspense. And then there is the use of slow-motion in a couple of shots which look out of place in a film emphasizing on the rules of time and reality.

    Nevertheless, The Hurt Locker remains to be one of the better action pictures of the year. I foresee possible Oscar nominations for sound mixing and sound editing. Despite its flaws, this is a film to be experienced (however just once) in the theaters.

    GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)
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