Oscar Movie Month: "The Hurt Locker" Review

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Set in 2004 Baghdad, Kathryn Bigelow directs a tense and realistic drama focusing on three American soldiers whose job is to harmlessly disable improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Instead of presenting a position on the Iraq war, the story follows the moment-to-moment lives of the men in the bomb squad (played by Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie & Brian Geraghty).

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Rating: R
Length: 131 mintues
Release Date: October 11, 2008
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Genre: Drama / Thriller / War

Hollywood has never avoided making movies about war and the adversities that soldiers are put through. However, the war in Iraq is one prime example of a war that never really had its turn to be made into a military action movie. There are movies that touch on this subject, such as "Syriana," but these movies failed to paint a picture of the war like "The Hurt Locker" did. Director Kathryn Bigelow put together a powerful movie that is not about debating the roots of the struggle. Instead, the movie follows the psychological hardships that soldiers in this war were put through and how those hardships changed them.

"The Hurt Locker" follows Staff Sergeant William James, played by Jeremy Renner, who is in charge of a three-man bomb squad. Although Sergeant James works as a specialist in a field of expertise that requires him to keep his cool, he is a maverick and a hothead who enjoys handling things his own way. His obsession with adrenaline not only puts his own life in danger, but also causes his own men to start doubting his motives.

Although the movie does a good job at portraying Sergeant James as a hothead, it also does a good job painting a picture of why he has become this way. This is a side of the war that many people do not understand without being in the middle of the conflict themselves. Sergeant James is given assignments that require him to lay down his life to disarm bombs in the hot sun. Meanwhile, he is surrounded by locals whose language he cannot understand and who just stare on with no expression. This is a theme in the movie that continues to weigh heavily on the main protagonist.

Throughout the movie, Sergeant James and his subordinates continue to live a nightmare as the film gives people an up close and personal look at the endgame following the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, this requires Sergeant James and his men to walk the streets as armored targets for pockets of resistance to show their distaste for American soldiers. As his men walk these streets, they have to look for booby-traps and bombs that have been hidden throughout the city.

To help keep Sergeant James and his men safe, the men use remote-controlled robots to investigate any kind of possible bomb threats. Over the course of the movie, Sergeant James starts to become impatient with these robots as he lays in the hot sun and controls them. This is when he starts sending himself into the danger zone to deal with the problem. At times, he refuses to wear the protective armor that minimizes injury in the event that a bomb explodes. As Sergeant James continues to walk a path that brings him closer and closer to death every day, he starts to become detached from reality.

What makes the scenario of "The Hurt Locker" so great is not the fact that it takes people on a tour of Iraq to show what the soldiers are dealing with. In fact, the essential point of this movie has little to do with the geography of where the soldiers are located. The movie is well received because it accurately portrays the psychological hardships that American soldiers have to deal with when they continuously put themselves in harm's way. This is seen not only with Sergeant James, but also with other soldiers he meets during his time in Iraq.

Due to this, Bigelow creates a gripping thriller without making a war movie that feels like it has been glamorized to fit into Hollywood's definition of a war movie. This movie does not try to be a cinematic masterpiece. Instead, it shows people the reality of what is happening to soldiers overseas.

The name of the movie, "The Hurt Locker," sounds confusing when first spoken. However, the name is fitting because it describes the physical and psychological trauma that soldiers undergo when they live their lives so close to death. This is a feeling that these soldiers must keep inside, or they risk allowing it to interfere with their jobs, which puts their own lives at risk. This is one of the few war dramas that accurately translates how terrifying it is to live like this. This movie is not all about explosions and action scenes. Instead, it works hard to create a tense atmosphere that comes with the silence of trying to disarm a bomb that has the potential to take the lives of everyone around it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5