The Hurt Locker is as full of passionate suspense as any movie I have seen in years. It is an edge-of-your seat portrait of real military courage under fire. No horror film, or apocalyptic thriller, will grip you the way The Hurt Locker does. The heroes in this extraordinary film are the technicians of an Army bomb squad. These men volunteer to challenge the odds, which are clearly life and death, in order to save lives. They just happened to do this in Iraq in 2004, which at the time was one of the world’s most dangerous places.
The story revolves around James, a new sergeant, and two guys named Sanborn and Eldridge, his subordinates. These three men are members of the Army’s elite Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) squad. They have been trained to fight insurgents while they seek out and disarm a wave of roadside bombs on the streets of Baghdad. Their mission is clear—protect civilians and American troops from the bombs which are detonated by various devices, including cell phones. The margin of error for these three men, and the rest of their team, is zero. This is especially true for the daredevil James, who seems to relish the dramatic.
How does combat impact relationships and what are the dangers on the human psyche? The Hurt Locker explores these, and other very difficult questions. This makes it the finest war movie that I may have ever seen. Yes, I really mean it. This film is amazing. It grips, moves and squeezes you more powerfully than Saving Private Ryan. Amazingly it features no big no name stars and a great number of hand held camera shots. Mix in a great deal of amazingly real dialog. I am told that the story is based on the first-hand observations of journalist and screenwriter Mark Boal, who was embedded with a special bomb unit in Iraq. The end result is fiction but it is fiction that the viewer soon realizes tells a very true story.
The director Kathryn Bigelow brings together groundbreaking realistic action and intimate human drama in what is a gripping film. One reviewer writes: “With a visual and emotional intensity that makes audiences feel like they have been transported to Iraq's dizzying, 24-hour turmoil, The Hurt Locker is both a tense portrayal of real-life sacrifice and heroism, and a probing look at the soul-numbing rigors and potent allure of the modern battlefield.”
I saw no evidence in this movie of a political perspective. The viewer is not pushed to decide how you must feel about Iraq. This story would work in any combat setting regardless of the war. There is no America bashing here nor are there full scale displays of patriotism. What you see is a moving human portrait of men doing some amazing work in a war zone that few of us understand. Another reviewer wrote: “The film doesn’t really have a conventional plot. Instead, the story is built around the last 38 days the three men in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) squad have remaining in their Iraq rotation.”
The Hurt Locker is truly one of the most intense films I have seen in years. I was transfixed. I left the megaplex theater deeply moved by what I just experienced. This is not for children or the squeamish. If you can handle intensity then I recommend you see The Hurt Locker as soon as possible. If this movie does not win Academy Award then something is positively wrong with the process. The Hurt Locker is rated “R” for war violence and language.