“The Hurt Locker”: A explosive meditation
One of the top contenders in the Oscars race this March, Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” is one of the most visceral cinematic experiences ever committed to film.
“The Hurt Locker” is set in 2004 Baghdad and chronicles the last thirty-nine days of a U.S. Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal squad assigned the dangerous task of defusing roadside bombs.
When a bomb unexpectedly explodes and kills one EOD technician, Staff Sgt. William James (Best Actor nominee Jeremy Renner) is called in to take over as the new disposal expert.
James, a wild man who approaches his profession as more of an art than a science, scoffs at military protocol. His fellow squad members, Sgt. J. T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), both fear that his general disregard for safety might get him and/or others in his unit killed.
Shot on hand-held cameras, documentary-style, each scene has an intensity that feels like a string that tightens . . . and tightens . . . and tightens, seeming as if it will never break.
The film is simply filled with tense action scenes—but they aren’t just action scenes. The difference between the action in “The Hurt Locker” and the action in so many run-of-the mill thrillers is that the action here illuminates the characters, particularly James.
“The Hurt Locker” also fills a gap in the cinematic treatment of the war in Iraq.
For years now, filmmakers from both Hollywood and the independent arena have jumped on the anti-Iraq war bandwagon, preaching about war’s immorality and its effect on public officials without ever truly telling the story from a soldier’s point-of-view.
In focusing on the day-to-day stresses and struggles of James, Sanborn, and Eldridge, screenwriter Mark Boal, also one of the writers behind 2007’s Iraq war-influenced “In the Valley of Elah,” perfectly captures the adrenaline-drenched chaos of front-line participants.
Throughout her thirty-year directorial career, Kathryn Bigelow’s name has been synonymous with an obsession with the human affinity for violence. “War,” the film’s epigraph reads, “is a drug.”
“The Hurt Locker” is by far Bigelow’s best work, a brilliant display of filmmaking, a character study and morality play about how war really is a drug to some of those most closely involved in it. I highly recommend it.