The Hurt Locker Review: A Mesmerizing and Accurately Depicted Action Film

the hurt locker

There is much to be admired in Kathryn Bigelow’s action war drama The Hurt Locker for the film is incredibly balanced in intention and brilliantly executed in all of its artistic forms, including the delicate camera work and the suspenseful sound design. This primitively exciting and realistically suspenseful depiction of a bomb squad in the heart of the Iraq War is an exhilarating action film that integrates depth of character, psychological strain, and the realistic uneasiness that is a defining feature of a soldier’s experience in war. Effectively brought to life with an incredible cast, including many memorable cameos and appearances from some underrated actors, and an evenhanded use of shaky camera, incredibly anxious environments, and a haunting score, The Hurt Locker will not only excite, tremble, and consume you, it will also keep you thinking about the nature of war and the brave and extraordinary life of a soldier.

The films exploration into the psychological unease a soldier experiences is carefully depicted through three dissimilar individuals that comprise the Delta Bomb Squad that search for I.E.D.s—improvised explosive devices—and defuse, or detonate if all else seems to fail, these explosives with extreme caution. After the team leader Thompson is tragically killed in a remote detonation, the army brings in Staff Sgt. William James, played by Jeremy Renner in a multi-faceted and precise performance, whose style is incredibly impromptu and seems as though his careless antics, while an adrenaline high for him, might be a liability to those around him. His team is comprised of two other men, Specialist Owen Eldridge, a cautiously fearful performance from Brian Geraghty, and Sgt. J.T. Sanborn, in a believable performance from Anthony Mackie. While Eldridge is the more cautious and cowardly individual, who seems quite ashamed for his lack of bravery, it’s Sanborn who tries to keep the team alive with his stubbornness to protocol that he feels will reward him with life while serving his time. The story follows these three men and the growth of their individual personalities as they conflict, change, and gain perspective, within an environment that rarely allows them contemplate the possibilities of a future.

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All of these men are a reflection of different outlooks of a soldier and their acting explores the core and depth of each character, brought out through various suspenseful and unnerving situations, which is what makes this film so effective. Unlike the horrid chain of 2007 Iraq War films, including the pompous and insulting Redacted and the ridiculously boring Rendition, The Hurt Locker doesn’t have the intention of political suggestion within its story, rather it truly focuses on the multi-layered human drama that is accentuated in the dangerous surroundings that are a part of war. War in all its forms not only includes acts of bravery, but also acts of savagery, which the film has many examples of including the use of dead bodies as a placement for detonation explosive devices and the forceful tactic of locking suicide bombs on innocent victims. Kathryn Bigelow allows her film to take a step back from politics and focuses on the impact of war reflect through her characters, including the realistic depiction of Arabs as the enemy many of which appear in civilian clothing, making this a believable and riveting drama as well as an insanely suspenseful action film. The action sequences are mentally unnerving due to the audience knowing just how powerful these improvised explosive devices can be, an older suspense trick that has been updated and made its own for this particular war film. This isn’t to say that the result is a negative outlook on a soldier, but rather the phrase “be all you can be,” mostly suggests that sometimes the life of a solider goes beyond normalcy or the average complacency of life that society is accustomed to. This is the particular message behind Staff Sgt. William James whose various facets of emotion and struggle are brought poignantly and precisely to life through the acting of Jeremy Renner.

There might be a few movie goers, not used to any artistic depictions of any subject matter, who might find The Hurt Locker to be a tad stretched out in its running time. However, this would be a false perception on the films low key action segments, including a sniper battle in the blistering heat, which actually heighten the tension and nerves of the audience willing to participate in the film as a whole. Making all the characters unique and vulnerable, of course some more than others, audiences are willing to follow and be a part of the Delta bomb squad experience, making you fret for their lives and be on the edge of your seat when things seem the slightest bit out of place. This was a brilliantly selected cast from actors you will recognize, including cameos from great actors such as Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pierce, but are not selected for the wide spread promotion of the film. The quality of the film is evident through every aspect of the film making this not only one of the best films of the summer thus far but also one of the best war films that reflects on the nature of war through its multi-dimensional characters.

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This film in its entirety really has everything a great film should have: interesting and in depth characters, heart wrenching drama, suspenseful and exhilarating action sequences, and an all encompassing message that goes beyond the screen and into the audiences perceptions and cinematic experience. It’s a moving piece of cinema that is artistic in delivery and shows the true ambition of a director whose work has not been quite as successful, although none of Kathryn Bigelow’s films could be categorized as uninteresting. The Hurt Locker is truly a one of a kind summer film experience that embraces its strengths and delivers a truly mesmerizing action war film that will consume you, excite you, and stay with you beyond the theater experience. This will be one of the better uses of your theater attendance budget this summer so please do yourself a favor and go see this extraordinary film.

Grade: A

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