The Hurt Locker does not 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. Spc. Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), just a kid but beginning to crack under the pressure, and the sensible Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), are simply trying to avoid the titular place that represents “ultimate pain." They are both getting over the recent loss of a teammate to what seems like total randomness concerning who lives and who dies.
The new replacement, Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) is a wild cowboy of sorts (as pegged by his superior officers), who prefers to detonate devices without his protective suit. “If I"m gonna die... I wanna die comfortable," quips the cocksure sergeant. To his teammates, James"s recklessness represents a danger to their own well-being. They begin to wonder, which is a greater threat, the bomb on the ground or the man in the bomb suit.
The film avoids explicit political statements about whether the United States military's presence in the region is legitimate or unjustified. Implicitly positive or negative readings of the film's stance on the War in Iraq probably reflect the beliefs viewers carry into the theater than what's on screen. This is not a coward's way out for the filmmakers but rather an acknowledgment of the soldiers' reality. The film goes to great pains to present the challenges confronting them and how they function.
When staring at several bombs that need to be disarmed, philosophical debates about patriotism or warmongering are not the most urgent things coming to mind. Like its hero, the movie needs its adrenaline fix, but never at the expense of the drama that keeps the anecdotal narrative going. It comes by its thrills honestly, never losing sight of the potential cost in lives. These soldiers do their jobs while acutely aware they could be killed by some of the same people they are trying to save, but they try anyway.
Kathryn Bigelow knows exactly where to place her cameras and how to edit her shots so the viewer always understands, where the threat to the characters is coming from and where they stand in relation to each other.
Each of the three lead actors -- Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty -- deliver seamless and convincing performances that are highly reflective of the pains both physical and psychological; there's an air of authenticity to each part, and the varied personalities allow for a much broader and far more convincing environment.
Don"t miss this Oscar winner as it goes far beyond action into almost existential excitement, fear, despair (one soldier bemoans how nobody except his parents, who "don't count," will care if he's killed in action).
Producer: Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Bryan Geraghty and Evangeline Lilly.
Rating: 4 out of 5*