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The Hurt Locker

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The Hurt Locker is pretty darn good, I want to get that out of the way up front. Despite my prior service, I usually avoid military movies given the cliched and message-bound nature of most of them. The glowing reviews I'd read convinced me otherwise about The Hurt Locker; director Kathryn Bigelow has a strong record of thoughtful action movies including Point Break and K-19: The Widowmaker (which I didn't see due to my previously mentioned distaste for the genre). Going in I expected some non-mindless action against the backdrop of war-torn Iraq, and I was not disappointed.

The story sounds familiar: a new platoon member swaggers into a military unit and makes a splash because of his maverick ways and disregard for "the rules." Sound familiar? In this case, the unit is an Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team - the unlucky souls who have to defuse the improvised explosive devices plaguing the troops in Iraq. This film is interestingly apolitical (at least from my perspective - perhaps I'm a raging liberal now that I am of the unemployed persuasion); the situation appears pretty grim for all involved parties: the U.S. soldiers, the Iraqi citizens and the members of the militant resistance. The relationship between the EOD teams and the citizens is particularly intense, as everyone in the vicinity of an identified bomb is a potential ignitor, and thus they are in danger of getting their ass shot by the EOD guys if they make any questionable moves.

The story is narrowly focused around three main characters - James (Jeremy Renner), the new squad leader, who joins the unit and flaunts his disregard for Army standard procedure, prefering a wild west approach to disarming various big-assed bombs. His right hand man is Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), a rule-abiding sergeant who is nervous about surviving the 30ish days they have left in Iraq under James' adrenaline-charged direction. Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), is the most junior member of the team and is riddled with a combination of guilt and fear. The whole premise of the movie is "Will these guys survive their final thirty days in Iraq?" The movie is pretty intense; even the male bonding sessions have an edge to them - you won't really relax until the credits roll.

The acting is uniformly excellent among the three leads; they maintain an uneasy comraderie despite different perspectives/motivations as to what they are doing and why. The story mostly focuses on James, an atypical rogue who doesn't seem to be looking for external validation or glory for his heroic/risky efforts. It's unclear what his motivation really is - nine times out of ten in this type movie it's Some Tragic Event From My Past. James' epiphany is pretty perfect, I won't say more than that. Overall, an extremely interesting take on the relationship between fear and the things you hold most dear in life (and how the latter can differ dramatically from one person to the next).

The script, from a writer who spent time imbedded with a unit in Iraq, was solid - the dialogue wasn't forced or overly acronym-laden. Some of their leisure activities (kicking each others asses) didn't quite ring true to me, but perhaps that's because I spent my time on a submarine, where we mostly lounged in our smoking jackets, drinking lattes and eating crumpets. Apparently, the script was intended for Renner and it shows; he is destined to become a tentpole character soon. There are a few other familiar faces that pop up, including Guy Pearce and that dude from St. Elsewhere, but the story centers on the bomb unit. They actually filmed the movie in Jordan, and it was apparently 110-115 degrees. Wearing a 100 lb lead suit in 115 degree weather shows real dedication to your craft.

It's ridiculous how thinly distributed this movie is - even in NYC it's only showing at like three theaters. I saw it in the same backhallway theater (seating capacity: 30) of the megaplex that I saw The King of Kong at. It's a shame that people pay their $12 to see garbage like Transformers II and a quality "action" movie like The Hurt Locker is relegated to the local indie theater. Go see it, you will enjoy it. (On the off chance you enjoyed Transformers, you still may like it because stuff blows up and stuff)

Sounds interesting , I wouldn't worry about the distribution it's getting around to other places slowly - Moon took awhile to get in Milwaukee and this one is coming in around a month or so.

Yeah i have seen the trailer for this one, looks really good, cant wait for it.

That's okay. Nobody's perfect!
I am going to see this tomorrow and have great hopes for it.

I believe the movie was originally shown at the 2008 Toronto film festival, where audiences and critics alike were both highly favorable to it, but no one picked it up for distibution. This was because it was a film about the Iraq war (even though the picture is apolitical), which to the money people is box office poison and realistically they are probably right. It is only playing in one theater here in Seattle, part of an independant chain.

I hope many people will get a chance to see it since what I have read from the critics is that it should be on the short list for the Acadamy Awards for best picture and best actor.

All good people are asleep and dreaming.
Great post Chilly17!

Nice to see you posting Erasmus Folly!

28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
I figured this one to be another typical modern day war flick with the bomb defuse portion as a twist to it, but this has been getting really good reviews. Might change my mind on this on.
"A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."

Suspect's Reviews

The American Film Institute put The Hurt Locker in the Top 10 movies of 2009. And some websites are already saying The Hurt Locker will sure be nominated for the Oscar.

So when i was watching the movie, i noticed couple of scenes -

1) When they find the small boy dead and the bomb factory - only the three squad people were in there. Wont they go with backups? It kind of sounds lame to me that only those three people were there searching the whole place.
Is that how it is in real world?

2) What was the purpose do the professor/wife scene? Did that kid really live there? That was kind of ambigious.
I thought understand the underlying way to show the risks this James guy takes.

I understood (1) that they thought there were only bombs in there, that`s why they went alone, until they saw the lighted cigarete. And (2) apparently not, we saw Beckham later in the film trying to speak to James.
It`s a good film, it was first presented at Venice festival in 2008, and won the audience awards (The wrestler won jury prizes), I liked it very much, and maybe for the first time since 1998 we will have 2 war films nominated for best picture award, tihs and Basterds, I`ll be happy if one of them wins, both are great films.

excellent review. Just seen the film and agree with your thoughts. Loved your quote!

Some of their leisure activities (kicking each others asses) didn't quite ring true to me, but perhaps that's because I spent my time on a submarine, where we mostly lounged in our smoking jackets, drinking lattes and eating crumpets.

I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Just watched this on dvd. I don't normally watch war films either, but having heard good things about this, I thought I should see it. And it was pretty good.

I couldn't help comparing it to Avatar and I really hope Bigelow beats Cameron to awards because I felt that this film respected the intelligence of the audience as opposed to Avatar which was beat you over the 3D-specs-wearing head with 'these are the goodies and these are the baddies'. It would be lame to say this was more real, because obviously it's about something real, but it doesn't always follow that a film about something real is in any way realistic so I thought this did a good job. The dialogue was good, believable and often wryly humourous.

One thing that bothered me slightly was the shifting viewpoint. At first we're following Sandbourn's reactions to the newcomer, but by the end it's focussed almost entirely on James. During some combat scenes the camera viewpoint flips to the viewpoint of the enemy for no apparent reason and then flips back.

Yeah, I thought it was a decent movie too, but a few things significantly diminished my enjoyment of it, for one thing, Jeremy Renner just doesn't seem like an actor for a leading role to me. And I don't like his face. I think he probably had a role I didn't like (and couldn't be bothered to remember) and which I'll continue to begrudge him. I think Guy Pearce is completely wasted in the film (and would/could have made a better, more charismatic leading man?). Also, Ralph Fiennes makes for the least convincing soldier ever. He really shouldn't be holding a rifle in any capacity. Also also, the scene where he appears was for some reason the most problematic for me, logically.
WARNING: "The hurt locker" spoilers below
First off, they are attacked by a gang of rebels from a house on a clearing with nothing around for miles. That seems like an incredibly stupid thing to do, tactically. Even if the soldiers didn't kill them, they could easily order in an air attack and bomb them to bits, no? Furthermore, there's one rebel soldier which appears to be behind them and has them in clear view but chooses to do nothing but wait to be gunned down? Uhm, ok? It also all felt too protracted which had an anticlimactic effect.

Other than that, I thought the lead character was annoyingly self-destructive which made it really difficult to relate to anything he was going through.

So decent, but nothing that would separate it from the dozens of other war movies (maybe I'm just not a fan?).

Ralph Fiennes makes for the least convincing soldier ever.
Ralph Fiennes made about the most convincing Nazi I ever saw. But that was another film.

The Hurt Locker. Why do they call this "a near perfect movie"?
a) maybe the camera is a tad jumpy; just a hair too much the journalistic approach.
b) Brian Geraghty ... Spc. Owen Eldridge was a crybaby and needed Patton to slap him.

Other than that, it was perfect.

I found Jeremy Renner completely convincing in his role. Being a Navy vet and knowing many in the EOD community, and also having recently spent some time with some ex-Ranger (now private contractors) doing this exact type of work in Iraq - I thought Reinner dead-on in his performance.

In terms of filmcraft, I could not find any production flaws. Looks real, all the way around. Sounds real, feels real.

One thing I liked about the film is it never became a Hollywood movie. It remained true to life and to the character of the man it was about. Uncompromising and without tabloib social messaging. This movie is about a guy who defuses bombs - a Ranger. Its pretty solid, through and through. Rare meat on a bun with not cheese.

I give it 10/10 and say it will last in film for the history of media - for all time.

Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
I agree with most of what you say, except that I think it's a film about three guys. I think you need the other two soldiers [Spc Eldridge (Geraghty) and Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie)] to compare and contrast with Renner's kamikaze SSG James. That's what paints an entire picture of what could be going on over in Iraq. In fact, I think that Mackie should have been nominated Best Supporting Actor.
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
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Thought it was outstanding. To me, it felt like the movie gave some truth to the war in Iraq. Where im from, it's become a common misconception that we are winning this war in a domminating fashion, and it's just not so. All other war Iraqi war movies paint a picture of us controlling the tempo of the war. This movie showed that the enemy has adapted, evaded, and evolved into a worthy opponent. I thought the sniper scene was dead one. All in all, I enjoyed the movie and it has worked it's way into my top 100.
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No war has ever been won, by anyone.
There is no self - the individual is illusion.
War is humanity beating its head on the pavement.

If the individual is illusion, how come I don't know what you're thinking right now? Other than a bunch of really harsh things about James Cameron, that is. Also, we totally won World War II.

Anyway, I should finally be seeing The Hurt Locker tonight. Yay.

Who is we?

Sorry, I was reading Catching The Big Fish, by David Lynch.
I'm better now.

I do not see James as simply a Kamikaze. The Kamikaze were brainwashed patriots. James knows he can save lives.

When he dismantles the "body bomb" on the small boy's dead body it is because James does not want to see that body desecrated. It is out of respect and the love for his own son that he puts himself through the horror of defusing that bomb. You could view from the perspective he could pass up difusing a bome, but I didn't see it that way.

Sanborn and Eldridge worry about their own survival, even considering killing James to insure their survival. They are not the same calibur of spirits.

During the sniper scene, James feeds Sanborn the packet of juice while we know he is choking from his own thirst. He gives Eldridge comfort. He is a born leader.

So, while I see no overt message in this film, James is clearly, from my POV, a Brahman. Or maybe he's just a nice hot shot Adrenaline junkie. Ultimately his "one love" is his work. So ... "war is a drug", as the movie starts, comes back to us.