Hurt Locker, The (2009)
Release Date: June 26th, 2009 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Kathryn Bigelow Actors: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, Evangeline Lilly
war film unlike any other, “The Hurt Locker” examines a group of Army bomb squad soldiers in Iraq, and the extreme toll the horrors of war and the debilitating awareness of imminent death take on their lives. Incredibly suspenseful from the start, the pressure and paranoia to get the job done never lets up. Though the balance between realism and personalized fiction seems to shift more towards the latter as it progresses further into the turmoil, few films can boast war scenes of such a gloriously intense magnitude.
After the leader of an Army bomb squad unit in Iraq is tragically killed, brash-but-experienced bomb technician William James (Jeremy Renner) is brought in to replace the command. His new squad includes Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), soldiers highly trained in matters of disarming and disposing of explosive devices. The trio must learn to trust each other through their various, always perilous missions, constantly coping with the daily reminders of the fragility of human life and the infinite dangers surrounding their every move.
“War is a drug,” states the opening quote by author Chris Hedges. That idea isn’t fully revisited until the conclusion, when “The Hurt Locker” resorts to being a mouthpiece for soldier’s mentalities, the strict regimentation of their lives, and their stereotypical inability to become reinserted back into the world they knew before. It seems an unnecessary and off-topic effort, considering the sizable amount of raw suspense and nail-biting action that drives the majority of the film. It’s just a small dose of political agenda, leaving the rest to be solidly entertaining wartime mayhem, proving once again that director Kathryn Bigelow can handle action movies like the best of them.
“The Hurt Locker” is partly a biopic of a fictionalized Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) specialist, and part pseudo-documentary about a tension-wrought Bravo Company 40 day rotation. Instead of focusing on a story arc that separates specific villains and related events, the film chronicles several unrelated bomb missions and the tolls they have on fellow soldiers, Iraqi citizens, and James’ beliefs and methodology. Without catching those responsible or even hunting specific terrorists, “The Hurt Locker” relies on tremendously powerful imagery: adrenaline-fix recklessness, mental stresses, an obsession with death, heart-stopping explosions, camaraderie, “Full Metal Jacket”-influenced commanding officer execution thoughts, and enough suspenseful intensity to level a movie theater. It’s borderline humorous in the way Bigelow toys with the audience, setting up extreme anticipation for the next detonation or ambush, pouncing on the viewer’s senses like a horror film.
Being a bomb squad technician is like a roll of the dice; a high-pressure, high-stakes risk that demands a sound mind and a dizzyingly calm intelligence. There is no room for error, and actor Jeremy Renner provides a believable hero – one who demonstrates a daredevil disregard for protocol and safety that might just be a mask for a character whose perfectly-honed skills are the mark of an uncompromising professional. Or he could be completely insane. The supporting cast is superb, as are the sound effects and numbingly immersive camerawork. Witnessing a different side of the Iraqi war zone, a modern battlefield, coupled with realistic sacrifice and heroism is powerful, alluring, and eye-opening entertainment.
– The Massie Twins