The Hurt Locker is an American war film that follows a United States Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team during the Iraq War. Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty star as members of the EOD team. Director Kathryn Bigelow also produced the film with partners Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier and Greg Shapiro. Mark Boal wrote the screenplay.
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Thriller and War
Run Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Release Date: June 26th, 2009 (limited); July 24th (wide)
Distributors: Summit Entertainment, LLC
March 14, 2010 Review
With a remarkable name like The Hurt Locker, I was surprised to never hear mention of the words once. There was a brief scene with a room full of white metal chests that contained the personal contents of recently deceased American soldiers in Iraq, yet no direct phrase was spoken. My co-critic, husband and former Sgt. Mills, later said that the “hurt locker” is a personal place where a soldier sets aside his pain, keeping it separate from his duty. Internet sources define “hurt locker” as a place where you end up, as in the better known phrase, “a world of hurt.” The official movie site claims the word is slang for where an explosion can put you. Another source traces the word back to the Vietnam War. It is interesting to note that in a lawsuit against the filmmakers, a bomb expert who claims the story is based on his experience in Iraq also claims that he coined the term “hurt locker.” Whatever the origins of the movie’s name, it is no mystery as to why this film landed six Academy Awards.
Because The Hurt Locker won the 2009 Academies for Best Movie, Editing, Cinematography, Writing, Direction and Sound, I anticipated a high level of artistry and intelligence in the storytelling. The opening scene met my high expectations and throughout the rest of the movie, I was not disappointed. What captured my attention in the opener was the portrayal of death. Modern movies often kill characters with gruesome reality, but not so in this scene. Once viewers see a deadly bomb blast explode, the film slows down and a camera shot focuses on the vibrating displacement of a pile of desert rock, then cuts to another shot of a bombed out car shell as we see the reverberation of the metal to the point where it begins to lose shape. The next shot is a minute smear of blood inside a helmet and we understand that the blast which gravitated rock and fragment metal took the life of a soldier.
Film-makers took another bold action that becomes evident immediately: no music. The movie is gritty realism throughout with very subtle musicality in a few broader scenes, but never as part of the close up action. Street noise, gravel under Humvee tires and the sounds of war immerse the audience. While this impressive sound editing succeeded in taking the audience to Iraq, many war veterans discount the movie’s realism. In fact, my co-critic, Sgt. Mills, pointed out numerous detail inaccuracies such as insignia mistakes and scoffed at several story lines, saying, “That would never happen.” Universal reviews rave that The Hurt Locker is intense, but most veteran viewers question the movie’s authenticity.
If you can suspend credibility and accept that this is indeed fiction–screenplay writer Mark Boal claims the story is fiction despite his own experience as an embedded journalist in Iraq–then be prepared to think. From the opening quote by author Chris Hedges (“war is a drug”) to the final decision of one of the movie’s three main characters, the audience is asked to think about the story and its people. Compare this to the typical spoon-fed ideologies most movies present with strategic clichés, obvious characters and clear sides, and you will discover that love or hate The Hurt Locker, you will have much to discuss. In fact, I appreciated the lack of obvious good guy verses bad guy and I felt like the character were real people in real situations. I will never think of the word “friendly” the same way, as the soldiers are repeatedly shown trying to figure out who is friendly and who is not. It’s never any clearer to us as audience viewers than it is to the characters faced with the dilemma.
As of March 14, The Hurt Locker is still in theaters. This is one you will want to see on the big screen.