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January 23, 2010
Review - " The Hurt Locker "  -  (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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The Hurt Locker
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow  
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Bryan Geraghty, Evangeline

I am very particular about my war films, and The Hurt Locker does it right.
Set in Iraq, "The Hurt Locker" isn’t your typical war film with lots of huge
battles, brutal combat, and longwinded speeches from Bill Pullman. It
focuses on a bomb squad going around Iraq diffusing bombs left on the
side of the road, in cars, or anywhere and everywhere really. Don’t get
me wrong, there’s still some action going on. You can’t follow a bomb
squad around in the middle of Iraq without any kind of action, but it’s on
the lower end. The little battles that the soldiers face really bring you into
the story and make you root for them. The Hurt Locker opens your eyes
to what the soldiers in Iraq really do for us. This film is not about over the
top action it’s about telling a great story, and it’s intense, suspenseful,
and engrossing.

"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 takes on their lives. Incredibly suspenseful from the start,
the pressure and paranoia to get the job done never lets up, and though
the balance between realism and personalized fiction seems to shift more
towards the latter 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 his command. His new squad includes Sergeant
JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian
Geraghty); 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 regimentation of their lives and their inability to reinsert
themselves back into the world they knew before. It seems an unnecessary effort, considering the incredible amount of raw
suspense and nail-biting action that drives the majority of the film. It’s a small dose of political agenda, leaving the rest to be
solidly entertaining, 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 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 and 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 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 man whose perfectly-honed skills
are the mark of an uncompromising professional. 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 real-life sacrifice
and heroism is powerful, alluring, and eye-opening entertainment.

Surprisingly “The Hurt Locker” is not another liberal stab at the underlying problems with the path to Iraq. “Locker” is a
patriotic film, and one that makes clear the sacrifices made by our brave troops. But it also serves to underscore the fact that
not all our troops want out of Iraq. Some, if not the majority, see the mission there are their mission in life. Sergeant James
wants nothing more than to be in the thick of it. But his two partners, Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist
Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) desperately want to return home soon and in one piece. A title animation, at times, counts
down the number of days the soldiers have left on their tour of duty. Specialist Eldridge has the most trouble with being in
harms way, he spends time meeting with a counselor reluctantly seeking support. Sergeant Sanborn feels an obligation to
reign in the reckless Sergeant James. At times, there is as much tension in the dynamic of the three main players as there is
during the intense scenes involving exploding bombs. Sanborn admires and hates James; Eldridge is scared and just wants to
go home.

I disagree with most of the reviewers who
listed Hurt Locker as one of the top ten if not
THE best film of 2009. However,"The Hurt
Locker" is a riveting, suspenseful portrait of
the courage under fire of the military's
unrecognized heroes: the technicians of a
bomb squad who volunteer to challenge the
odds and save lives doing one of the world's
most dangerous jobs. With a visual and
emotional intensity "The Hurt Locker" is both
a gripping portrayal of real-life sacrifice and
heroism, and a layered, probing study of the
soul-numbing rigors and potent allure of the
modern battlefield.