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The Hurt Locker (2009)

A 2009 movie directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

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"The Rush of Battle is Often a Potent, Lethal Addiction. War is a DRUG"

  • Jan 18, 2010

We have seen several movies about urban warfare. One of my personal favorites is Ridley Scott’s “Black Hawk Down” that chronicles a harrowing incident in Somalia. With the war in Iraq still going on, filmmakers wouldn’t be hard-pressed to capitalize on today’s current events. Movies such as “Brothers” and “Home of the Brave” are some of the few. Director Kathryn Bigelow with screenwriter Mark Boal now chronicles the experiences of an anti-bomb unit in Iraq. “The HURT LOCKER” comes very close to becoming an outstanding motion picture but it just couldn’t stay its course to close the deal.
Baghdad 2004. The place is one of the most dangerous in the world. Probably one of the most dangerous assignments is the work of a bomb squad whose job is to disable bombs attached to different things, some are buried, some even attached to human bodies. These squads are made up of three people: a tech/leader, and two specialists (sharpshooters) to keep the tech guy safe. New tech guy named Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) had joined this anti-bomb team in Bravo company after the death of Sgt. Thompson (Guy Pearce). Specialists JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) only have 38 days left in their rotation and they would be very pleased to make it through in one piece. However, Sgt. James is one leader who likes to tempt fate as he almost immediately makes the two real nervous. James is real good at what he does; he has no second thoughts in risking his own life and his companions. 

          Guy Pearce as Sgt. Matt Thompson in "The Hurt Locker."

                           Jeremy Renner as Staff Sgt. William James in "The Hurt Locker."
What I liked about “The Hurt Locker” is the manner that it takes us straight into the area of suspense. The viewer is brought in the middle of the action as we see this trio go through situations that can test the nerve of the bravest of men. The film is real tense and never failed in generating suspense, as the diffusion sequences were nicely shot as the direction never lingers on the camerawork; Bigelow takes the viewer in the middle of the action as well as the possible perils that lurk all around. James’ team is right in the face of danger and Bigelow never forgets to execute some camera pans to expose the possibilities of a sniper as seen through the eyes of the two specialists. It is difficult to work in an area where you cannot tell which are ‘friendlies’ and those who are hostile. The direction was able to illustrate the details in a way that isn’t exactly ‘rehearsed’ that it all feels natural and seemingly very real.
The first half of the film is all about the ‘bonding’ under fire of our main protagonists. We see our characters become recognized and fleshed-out through their assignments and interactions. The dialogue is pretty ’jargon-heavy’ and maybe even filled with ’strut’. We get to know James, Eldridge and Sanborn through the understanding of how important their tasks are. They bicker, they argue, shit, sometimes they even doubt one another (maybe even think of betrayal); but they begin to bond and trust each other during their stressful missions. I guess Bigelow is trying to establish a sort of ‘brotherhood’ or connection when one is under extreme stress; that one can get to know someone intimately under the most extreme of situations.
             A scene from "The Hurt Locker."

                         A scene from "The Hurt Locker."
The action in “The Hurt Locker” comes in the packages of diffusing car bombs, shooting insurgents from a distance, and the race against time. They aren’t the kind that are stretched out, and those who may be thinking of an extensive brutal gun battle may be a little disappointed. There is one gun fight but it was more on realism and stealth than one driven by tricky rehearsed explosions and gunfire. I liked its execution as I thought that the suspense is kept tight and the mood is taut and tense. We see the three bond (getting drunk) and while I could accept that this would natural, I kind of did hope that Bigelow would leave the viewer to their own musings.
The film was great in the first act but then it becomes more conventional in the second and most definitely in the third act. The film does try to get into the psychological effects of a war as seen with the sympathetic but detached war shrink, a fear of dying in a foreign land, a local kid that James becomes fond of, the performances were strong enough to give the characters enough depth than spoon-feeding the details as how these men were in the way they think, and the manner as to how they feel. The visuals are pretty spiffy too, as Bigelow does know how to express the underlying emotions in the film. 

           Anthony Mackie and Jeremy Renner in "The Hurt Locker."

                         A scene from "The Hurt Locker."
I guess if the film had a flaw it would be the fact that while the first act is tight, relentless and very immersive in the way it generated apprehension; the film didn’t trust itself to keep up the tone. While I can see that the storytelling was trying to establish the fact that these soldiers were human, the way it tried to fill in some gaps felt rather unnecessary and I would have liked it more if they were left alone. It’s not that they were lacking in execution, but the film became a little bit of “more of the same“. The tone was real natural and impulsive, I guess I was a little put off that it resorted to predictability in the last two acts. This isn’t exactly a complaint but more of ‘noticing’ the change in mood and tone.
“The Hurt Locker” is an excellent motion picture, It is nicely acted, and paced but it just didn’t believe enough in itself that sometimes ‘less is better’. This is a great action ( “action” as in expression) flick and a thought-provoking piece of a war film. It came so close to becoming stellar that I was a little disappointed that it had the right ambition, it didn’t have the confidence not to resort to clichéd themes of brotherhood. Still, Kathryn Bigelow’s film is very much worth a look, it is a shame that movies like “Twilight” and “Transformers 2” enjoy a wide spread theatrical run and movies like “The Hurt Locker” can only get a limited one.
Highly Recommended! [4+ Stars]

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January 23, 2010
This is very weird. I had already commented on and rated you review, but there's no sign of that here. Darn, I'm sure what I had today the first time around was more insightful than anything my befuddled brain can think up at the moment, too. Oh, well. Great review.
January 23, 2010
I think we all get confused at times LOL! Maybe you commented on Christy's review instead? ;-)
January 23, 2010
No, it was yours.
January 26, 2010
That happened to me on your BOOK OF ELI review, although I thought possibly you deleted my comment because it might have been considered anti-Christian.
January 26, 2010
uh-uh. I don't delete comments for any reason, Karen. I do notice that sometimes my comments disappear and then reappear for some weird reason. You might want to ask the staff about your comment disappearing...
January 26, 2010
It probably was. LOL!
January 18, 2010
You seen this also, Gosh you are in the theaters a lot. My husband is dying to see this as for me not really unless its place in front of me. Great way on capturing this film.
January 23, 2010
yeh. been hitting the theaters quite a bit lately. This is out on dvd though.
More The Hurt Locker reviews
review by . April 06, 2010
"The Hurt Locker" currently stands as the most critically acclaimed film of 2009 and after seeing it just this week I'm inclined to agree this acclamation wholeheartedly. This really is a work of art from start to finish and has now been moved to the top of my list of movies to own and cherish forever. Since its release it has won numerous awards and has 9 Academy award nominations which they will undoubtedly win come the ceremony in March. The cast comprises of unknowns, but are ones …
review by . January 21, 2010
Brilliant! An Honest and Suspenseful Look Into the Thrill of War!
Generally speaking, watching war films isn't always a fun experience.  After wards they can leave feeling down and depressed and while The Hurt Locker is mostly a serious film, it is filled with subtle humor and will leave you at the edge of your seat the minute the film starts.  Being her first major directing job, Kathryn Bigelow did an outstanding job capturing all the nit and grit of the battlefield that is Iraq.  In such a male dominated field (not directing; being a soldier), …
review by . December 07, 2010
   The Hurt Locker represents a turning point for Hollywood: it not only marks the first time a woman has been awarded the Oscar for Best Picture, but also for Best Director, and anyone who has seen this film will surely agree it deserved them both. Bigelow's direction demonstrates a natural command over her subject, despite never having been to war. Her battle scenes deliver tense moments of suspense and terror in this story about a bomb disposal unit, Bravo Company, serving in the …
review by . June 27, 2009
Hurt Locker
 I am still reeling from how good 'The Hurt Locker' is.  It's one of those movies that stays with you and makes you want to talk about it with others - which is why I'm up writing this review.  By far, this film is one of the most intense movies I've seen in a long time.   The writing is superb.  Mark Boal's script flies off the page with a brisk pace and treats the audience as intelligent people who do not need to be force fed.  Tension is the through line here. …
review by . April 15, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: One of the actors was attractive and a couple of explosions are cool      Cons: Grab a thesaurus and pick out 15 words for boring, all of them will apply      The Bottom Line: 30 shades of brown 30 shades of ennui without content.  Don't bother, waiting in line at the DMV is more exciting.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. The Hurt Locker is a tepid film. It is inconsistent, …
Quick Tip by . July 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Outstanding film. Not a single bad thing about it. One of the best war films in years.
review by . March 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Hurt Locker isn't a bad film in itself and the story of the main character is interesting, as is the menace of the bombs and the faceless duel that seems to ensue. I think that part of the film is clever.    The sets are fantastic and have a realistic gritty feel. Now I have not been to Iraq/Afghanistan myself but in my circle of friends there are two that have been there for tour of duty and keeping this in mind I don't think he story is far fetched as some here say. Things …
review by . March 09, 2010
"The Hurt Locker" has just won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture and it truly earns it. Here is a war movie that takes no real position on war, and especially no position on the Iraq War, and simply shows the mental and physical brutality and beauty of conflict.    You know the story by now. It centers around a bomb disposal and disarmament team in Iraq who throw themselves into harm's way on a regular basis in order to make life safer for their fellow soldiers and civilians. …
review by . March 06, 2010
Hey don't fret, potential enlistee! Hard as it is to discount the evidence of your senses when bombarded with skillful and costly cinematography, the 'gritty realism' of this film is totally unrealistic, full-bore Hollywood. Yeah, there may be scenes of mayhem similar to the scenes in the film at times, but not with such convenient regularity, not even in Baghdad in 2004. And there were innumerable other implausible or outright false details; just look at the one-star reviews here and not how many …
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
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About this movie


The Hurt Locker is a 2009 American war thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Shot in Jordan, the film is based on recently declassified information about a U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) (bomb squad) team in present day Iraq. The Hurt Locker is written by Mark Boal, a freelance writer who was embedded with a bomb squad.

The Hurt Locker was picked up by distributor Summit Entertainment. The film was released in the U.S. on June 26, 2009 in New York and Los Angeles, going wider on July 24, 2009.

The Hurt Locker follows a U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit as it works to defuse a series of improvised explosive devices (IED) in the streets of Iraq.

When the team's long-time bomb technician is killed, he is quickly replaced with the intelligent but impulsive Sergeant First Class William James. Team members Sergeant JT Sanborn and Specialist Owen Eldridge are initially disturbed by William's reckless behavior, but they learn to work together as a unit. It soon becomes apparent that William actually craves the feeling of mortal danger that he experiences while defusing bombs.

As the unit deals with one explosive device after another, it confronts the unpredictable and extreme violence of a growing Iraqi insurgency. Team members struggle constantly to distinguish enemy insurgents from innocent Iraqis and to protect themselves while avoiding civilian casualties. As the group's tour of duty draws to a close, each member suffers visibly from ...
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Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Genre: War
Release Date: June 26, 2009 
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: January 12, 2010
Runtime: 131 minutes
Studio: Summit Entertainment
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