The Hurt Locker

  • Kathryn Bigelow /
  • 2008 /
  • 131 mins

Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Christian Camargo / Fiction

War can be addictive…

With the violent, sexy biker-flick The Loveless (1982), vampire-western Near Dark (1987), and the pure macho adrenaline rush of Point Break (1991), it was often suggested that Kathryn Bigelow was trying to beat the Hollywood boys at their own game. Following a five-year hiatus, she delivered her most ambitious and perhaps most artistically interesting film to date – The Weight of Water, itself standing as an anomaly in her oeuvre – and then K-19: The Widowmaker, her worthy entry into the submarine genre. The Hurt Locker continues the general trajectory, albeit with a fresh emphasis: though firmly back in the world of men, here Bigelow is far more interested in the minds and motivations of the protagonists than in the violent action films that made her name, and at which she undoubtedly excels. That’s not to say The Hurt Locker – which follows a crack US Army bomb disposal squad on a tour of duty in post-conflict Iraq – doesn’t deliver its fair share of visceral, ear-splitting explosions and violence, (not to mention edge-of-your-seat drama) because it most certainly does; but the focus here is very much on what makes these professionals tick. No politics, no bigger picture – just these men, at work. The film centres on Staff Sergeant James (EIFF 2006 guest Jeremy Renner in a breakout performance) as the replacement unit chief – his predecessor having been blown to pieces while performing his duties in a nerve-shredding opening reel. The two men closest to him in the field, Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty, also appearing in Easier With Practice, p52) are affected by this adrenaline-junkie cowboy’s apparent deathwish and completely reckless behaviour. It’s this behaviour – and his colleagues' varying responses to it – that propels the narrative. Scripted by journalist Mark Boal, himself once embedded within a US Army bomb disposal squad, The Hurt Locker bears a fearsome authenticity. Barry Ackroyd’s street-level, hand-held cinematography takes the viewer to the very heart of the action, and Bigelow’s trademark, expert handling of the action keeps us ever alert to the potential threat around each corner.

2009 Archive

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  • #1 Mark Dickson / Friday 19 June, 2009 / 23:42 GMT

    I went to see this fil this evening and thought it was absolutely phenomenal. It was a very tense film which shows amazing relationships between the characters in such intense situations. I am ex forces and found this to be unbelievably realsitic, like I have never seen in a movie before. Absolutely riveting, a definate must see! I will definately be watching this film again!
  • #2 Scott Mackenzie / Saturday 20 June, 2009 / 00:14 GMT

    The Hurt Locker is the best film I have seen so far this year and will I think be very hard to beat, it will certainly rank among the best war movies ever made, I was surprised that there were a lot of empty seats at the showing yet it is ironic that a film like Terminator Salvation which wasn’t half as engrossing or entertaining can be sold out. Go see it when you get the chance!
  • #3 Craig Cunningham / Saturday 20 June, 2009 / 11:30 GMT

    Fantastic portrayal of the intensity of war and the ways in which it affects the people most involved: the soldiers. Without any political agenda, the film focuses on the characters, their relationships with each other and with the war itself. With phenomenal cinematography and dramatic, tense set-pieces this film is one that will stay with you after you've seen it.
  • #4 Mike Hall / Saturday 20 June, 2009 / 13:24 GMT

    Sorry to say this, but overall I was disappointed. The film is undeniably powerful and gritty, leaving the viewer with a sense of grim desolation at the reality of life in war-torn Iraq. Although it kept me on the edge of my seat for a lot of the running time, the narrative felt disjointed and episodic, and I thought that some of the key themes (such as the difficulty many soldiers have with re-integrating to 'normal' life back home) were covered more effectively in other genre movies (eg Martin Sheen in Apoc Now). The gung-ho 'let's all go down 3 alleyways alone at night' mission seemed a little improbable, and in terms of other Iraq-related war films, I thought that 'In The Valley Of Elah' delivered more emotional impact. IMHO, this was just not in the same league as the likes of 'Platoon' and 'Full Metal Jacket', and related to Kathryn's earlier work, I felt much more engaged by the storytelling in both 'Strange Days' and the prepostorously-enjoyable testostorone-laden 'Point Break'. 6/10.
  • #5 Shane Dobbie / Saturday 20 June, 2009 / 16:44 GMT

    It's sad that in a year where JJ Abrams is being talked about as the new Spielberg for the atrocious, vacuous Star Trek, a movie as great as The Hurt Locker, from a genuinely talented film-maker, is struggling to even get a release. Taut, exciting and beautifully crafted. A must see...if you get the chance.
  • #6 chas nairn / Saturday 20 June, 2009 / 21:44 GMT

    I have seen my fair share of Defuse the bomb with 1 sec to go red or blue wire? rehashes but this was clinical and methodical almost simple in that aspect in fact this film didn't dwell on that until one small scene near the end where an iraq father is forced to be an unwilling suicide bomber - easily one of the most intense scenes in the film.
    Now most of these films have one really exciting bomb defusal scene near the finale..not in the hurt locker..every time the soldiers are out on patrol the atmosphere is unbearably tense even when they are not actually defusing devices..i think the claustrophobia of the Iraqi city streets especially the rooftop advantages all around were captured really well here.
    Some of the Buddy stuff between the soldiers was a bit disjointed and slightly pushed too far but overall the characters were really engaging especially the super crazy coo Staff Sergeant James ..easily one of the standouts here.
    There were a few political statements here and there but most of them were cleverly contained in their scene rather than the reason for it.
    This film plays kinda like an action/thriller set in Baghdad rather than a war film if that makes any sense.
    Cool stuff:
    The sound effects!
    Beautiful Cinematography.
    Staff Sergeant James is a crazy badass!
    The SUIT!
    Oh yeh did i mention it was tense.
    A must see - and this is one you have to see in the cinema!
    Oh yeh did i mention it was tense?
  • #7 Adam Knight / Sunday 21 June, 2009 / 01:31 GMT

    Hugely impressive film - a sometimes overwhelmingly tense thriller that (mercifully) lacks the weighty political baggage of just about every other Iraq movie out there. I walked out of this film looking at my decidedly safe daily life in a very different way.

    Shellshocked.
  • #8 Craig Simpson / Sunday 21 June, 2009 / 12:30 GMT

    Kathryn Bigelow is a vastly underated Director. In a male dominated arena she has often beaten the boys at their own game, Point Break, Near Dark. Here she has st her sights on the war movie, and boy does she shoot to kill. It's been quite some time since I've felt so much tension during a film, this is aided by the fact that she uses little in background score, relying on the sounds around the soldiers to provide the movies main soundtrack. In this film nobody is safe from a sniper bullet, every character may be treading thier last fotsteps at any moment. It gives a realistic, facinating look into war from the eyes of the men in the field, and how just one man in thier squad can have a massive effect on the others. Some of the cinematography is outstanding and one scene involving a face off accross a barreen wasteland between two oppossing groups provided. for me, one of the most tense sequences in recent movie history. This isn't 'war movies for dummies', its not all about us v's them, everyone is flawed and nothing is certain. If you get the chance to see this do not hessitate, its viceral, heart pounding stuff told by a Director at the top of her game. Give Transformers a miss and see some real cinema.
  • #9 Shane Dobbie / Sunday 21 June, 2009 / 23:04 GMT

    A lot of Hollywood directors should be forced to study this to see the difference between shooting hand-held as a technique and simply shaking the camera about in the attempt to make your film appear more exciting. Looking at you JJ Abrams.
  • #10 Tania Johnston / Monday 22 June, 2009 / 10:18 GMT

    This film had me gripped with tension right from the start. Fantastic characters and I should imagine (have to imagine as I don't know anyone who has been involved in the conflicts) a pretty true-to-life insight into that various emotions soliders go through. Loved the way the relationships between the different soldiers built up and changed throughout.
  • #11 Rebecca Manor / Monday 22 June, 2009 / 10:34 GMT

    This film is amazing. There really isn't much more to say. Somehow Bigelow manages to make a war about Iraq without resorting to political statements, emotional tangents, and soppy characters. This movie is tough, grisly, and authentic. It's jarring but not manipulative. It is a beautiful war film - and that has always seemed to be an contradiction in terms to me until now.
  • #12 Richard Dickson / Wednesday 24 June, 2009 / 13:37 GMT

    The Hurt Locker is a film of misdirection and destined for small things. Strong performances from the relatively unknown cast (the big names are just cameos) can't disguise the fact that there isn't really a story here, just a collection of set pieces, some gritty and realistic, but spoiled by others which were standard action interludes. Katheryn Bigalow again seeks to out-do her male counterparts with a machismo, 'but with feelings' war movie, but misses the mark, again. For a more authentic and involving take on modern war in the gulf states, revealing the strange army life mix of long pauses of mundane downtime, shattered by moments of impending death, you would be better off watching the TV series Generation Kill.
  • #13 Paul Laird / Friday 26 June, 2009 / 08:01 GMT

    Um.

    If this movie had been titled "Dude, Where's My War" and had been directed by Deuce Bigelow I'm not sure anyone would have noticed the difference.

    Some very impressive set pieces and some terrific camera work but the idea of painting the theatre of conflict as an addictive video game for boys with toys is a bit, well, off...to these eyes at least.

    At times it did also feel a bit like "Point Break 2 - Surfin' the Dunes" as our three "heroes" roam the deserts and streets of Iraq seeking adventure.

    The cameo appearance from Fiennes was really jarring...it just didn't work on any level. I just kept thinking to myself; "Oh, what is Ralph Fiennes doing in Iraq?" He was, utterly, unconvincing...playing the sort of officer class "toff" last seen portrayed by the likes of Noel Coward.

    Despite these gripes I wasn't bored, I didn't run from the cinema before the end of the (way too long) run time...it was diverting, amusing and tense in places but I couldn't shake the feeling that nothing very much was happening.

    For a real insight into the horrors and tensions of the Iraq "conflict" I think Michael Winterbottoms docu-dram "Road to Guantanamo" would be hard to beat.

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