The Hurtlocker

Mike Demarais

(5/5 stars)

Probably the best action movie of the decade, The Hurt Locker has gained much deserved attention in the film industry. Winning six Oscars The Hurt Locker has been in the eyes of the critics since its release on at the 2008 Venice Film Festival. You probably haven’t seen the Hurt Locker due to the fact it was only released to limited cinemas. As of January 12, however, you can buy it on DVD and BluRay.

Unlike most war movies where the main plot line of the movie is just stuff blowing up, The Hurt Locker has substance.  The Hurt Locker was wonderfully written and wonderfully directed. Don’t get me wrong, the explosions are great but they are not the driving force behind this film. Jeremy Renner’s amazing performance really makes this movie what it is.  He plays the main character Staff Sgt William James, a classic wild man.  James is always living on the edge and often risks his own life and those of his squad just to get his adrenaline high. The other two characters, Specialist Owen Eldridge and Sgt J.T. Sanborn, played by Brian Geraghty and Anthony Mackie, make up the rest of James’ EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) team. Eldridge is not really fit out for military duty.  Often uptight and nervous, Eldridge is not really fit for military duty and tends to fold, under pressure which causes issues for his team. Sergeant Sanborn, however, is great at his job. He worked in intelligence before joining the EOD squad, and is very serious about his work. The whole movie focuses on James’ clear addiction to war, and the thrill of battle. This is made obvious by New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges’ opening quote: “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”

In one scene Sgt. James sneaks out of the military base looking for a family of a boy named Beckham, a boy who sells bootleg DVDs to the soldiers on the base. James finds his way to the house he believes Beckham resides.  James violently breaks in pistol drawn and moves tactically around the first floor. This symbolizes how the Americans barged into Iraq guns blazing without really doing any research first. Then James runs into the home owner, an Iraqi professor (who is capable of speaking English, French, and Arabic) who offers him to take a seat and have a cup of coffee. This symbolizes how intelligent and how friendly the Iraqi population is, but the Americans assumed they were hostile. Before the United States invaded, the Iraqi population had a great education system and the museums in Baghdad were some of the best in the world. Then after having a very short conversation, James realizes that the professor does not know anything about Beckham.  After this realization, James tries to leave but is then assaulted by the man’s wife as he is leaving.  This whole scene is filled with symbolism pertaining to the American occupation of Iraq. The boy Beckham represents the infamous WMD, the house represents Iraq, the professor represents the Iraqi people, and the wife represents the uprise of Iraqi insurgents due to the American invasion. The intense symbolism proves that the Hurt Locker is like no other war movie, with much more than just the typical intense action scenes.

The Hurt Locker has been credited as one of the most accurate war movies of all time.  To increase the realism of the film, director Kathryn Bigelow chose to film three miles away from the Iraqi border in Jordan.  However, with the added realism for the film came a real danger from being so close to a hostile environment.  The crew was shot at multiple times but no injuries were reported.  Another neat aspect of The Hurt Locker is the casting of extras. Must of the extras were actually Iraqi refugees looking for a job. Even a few of the minor Iraqi speaking roles were filled with refugees with acting experience.

Winning six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Screenplay. This film is quite popular even though many people have never even heard of it.  Competing against the legendary Avatar directed by James Cameron made clinching Best Picture quite a feat. Besides just actually winning the award, Kathryn Bigelow definitely had some personal interests in beating her former spouse James Cameron,with whom she went through a highly publicized divorce in 1991. In addition, beating Avatar, one of the largest budgeted movie of all time,  definitely is the greatest achievement in Kathryn Bigelow’s career.

Definitely make the effort to go out and see the Hurt Locker.  Netflix it, buy it, or find it in theaters it will be one of the better decisions you have ever made.