The Hurt Locker – A Review

7 03 2010

“The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug”.  This is the opening quotation in the latest war film, The Hurt Locker.  It is a stark quote from the best-selling novel War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by New York Times war correspondent, Chris Hedges and is one that stays with you and proves true throughout this film.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker is ferociously suspenseful, getting right in to the thick of it from the moment soldiers JT Sandborn (Anthony Mackie), and Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) watch in horror as their leader (Guy Pearce) has a bomb explode in his face.  They form part of the US Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD, or bomb squad) serving in the Iraq war; volunteering to challenge the odds and save lives doing quite possibly the world’s most dangerous job.  Enter Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner), who takes control of the unit and who is nothing short of reckless in his approach to the job.  The three members battle insurgents and each other searching for and disarming a mass of bombs on the roadside of Baghdad.  When the margin for error is zero, the thrill and tension is gut-wrenching. 

James becomes the film’s central character, as his world slowly unravels.  He is proof that while many soldiers are boisterous in counting down until the end of their deployment, they carry a fear for what lies ahead and a concern for how they might assume a ‘normal life’ after duty.  The reality is beautifully captured at the end of The Hurt Locker, when James makes an honest and brave decision about the thing he loves most.

The action of The Hurt Locker is ever-present, but it is not a sequence of over-the-top explosions that makes this story so intruiging and compelling.  It is the intense visuals and emotional exploration of each character that makes this film both alluring and deeply personal. 

A fictional tale, The Hurt Locker was inspired by the real-life events as documented by journalist and screenwriter Mark Boal, and is a well-acted, exquisitely shot, war epic that portrays the courage and heroism of battle. 

The Verdict: 4 out of 5

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow; written by Mark Boal; director of photography, Barry Ackroyd; edited by Bob Murawski and Chris Innis; music by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders; production designer, Karl Juliusson; produced by Ms. Bigelow, Mr. Boal, Nicolas Chartier and Greg Shapiro; released by Summit Entertainment. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes. 

WITH: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse and Guy Pearce.

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