The Hurt Locker review

Before I begin, I want to make it clear to the reader that this is not a movie about the conflict in Iraq. This is not a commentary on U.S. tactics or strategy, nor does it have anything to do modern politics. One of the beautiful things about this film is that it is malleable – that it can fit into any war, any military conflict that has ever taken place. Every frame of this film is carefully slotted together to construct a struggle against itself. This is war enveloping a person’s identity. Cue in the black-backed, white-font opening frame:  

“War is a drug”.

Short but potent – maybe not the most poetic of starts but the Chris Hedges quote signals the consistent and battering theme of the multiple Oscar nominated film The Hurt Locker. The story follows a three-man American bomb squad as it is ordered around the streets of Baghdad to diffuse explosives.

This film gives a master class of suspense. From the get-go, you are stuck on the very tip of your seat. Every scene is worked to be dangerously tense and agonizingly suspenseful without boring or disappointing the viewer. Everything is worked together smartly and beautifully to leave your heart pounding itself to pieces at the end of each scene.

Sgt. William James, played by Jeremy Renner, is the hero of the action without having to be an action hero. He’s never afraid to put himself in danger and, in fact, is intrigued in the idea that every job he is given could be the one to snuff him off the planet. His recklessness and indulgence of danger leads him to unnecessarily dangerous situations but truthfully it’s in these moments that James is at his calmest and most stable. Here lies the complexity of Renner’s Oscar-nominated character – he’ not afraid to die but only because he has a problem with living any other way.

The script, truthfully, does not give a lot of room for character development but here is where director Kathryn Bigelow’s genius picks up. Every shot is each character developing. The visuals, the slumps, the contortions, the reactions and the shining glints are the most responsible for carrying growth of these characters. Bigelow’s subtle character direction is the true stroke mastery that elevates this film to the Oscar-worthy status.


Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4

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