The Hurt Locker is the latest film from high-octane director of movies such as Point Break (1991), Strange Days (1995)), and it’s an intense portrayal of a group of elite soldiers who have a very dangerous job to do, namely disarming bombs in the heat of the desert and combat.
Its opening sequence leaves us in doubt about the precariousness of their existence when the defusal of a bomb goes horribly wrong, a scene reinforced by a shot of a man lying prone in a protective suit, an image which is cleverly used again near the end of the movie.
When new staff sergeant, William James, played by Jeremy Renner, takes over a highly trained bomb-disposal team amidst violent conflict and the death of the unit’s last leader, the strains of the job become more than intolerable for his two subordinates, Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty).
The three men comprise Bravo Company, a unit stationed in Baghdad, and they only have 39 days left of their deployment. However, it proves to be a difficult time for Sanborn and Eldridge who find their new leader’s style hard to deal with.
Apparently indifferent to death, James is a renegade, who has had a rough and ready upbringing. He enjoys the thrill of dismantlement, seeing it as the ultimate goal, regardless of the safety of others, including civilians.
In fact, the film is very good at describing the difficult relationship that exists between the foreign military personnel and Iraqis – in several scenes, it seems that the locals are only gathering to watch soldiers die.
Of course, the film’s key moments involve cutting detonators from bombs, but there are clashes of personality too and a feeling that the US army is very slowly extricating itself from an awful mess.
The cast includes excellent cameo roles from Guy Pierce and Ralph Fiennes – appearances that are short-lived but, then, isn’t that what anyone involved in bomb disposal would expect?
In The Hurt Locker, Bigelow asks why any man would want to do such a job and attempts to offer an answer.