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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 34.21%
Average: 5.26%
Pretty Bad: 7.89%
Total Crap: 7.89%

3 reviews, 20 user ratings

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Hurt Locker, The
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Rob Gonsalves

"Blown away."
5 stars

Before "The Hurt Locker" is anything else, it's a first-class action movie. This tense and muscular film unfolds in and around various Iraq war zones but isn't really an "Iraq War film."

It follows a bomb-squad unit, headed by risk addict Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner), who by his own count has disarmed 873 bombs. We don't know whether James is brave or crazy or both, but we do sense that he wouldn't rather be doing anything else. He doesn't get cranked up before a mission — a Zen-like calm seems to fall over him. He knows how bombs work, and he knows how to make them not work. He's in his element.

So is the director, Kathryn Bigelow. Absent from the big screen for too long, Bigelow was born to make action-thrillers (see Point Break or Strange Days), and The Hurt Locker may well be her masterpiece, the perfect fusion of director and material. Bigelow loves techno-POV shots; they were all over Strange Days, and this film opens with one, the staticky view of a radio-controlled robot rolling towards a concealed explosive. The action in The Hurt Locker is loose, caught on the fly and documentary-like, yet still perfectly readable. We always know exactly where the bomb squad is in relation to danger, and things slow way down during a shoot-out between snipers in the desert, during which any number of things go wrong (the ammo salvaged off of a freshly killed soldier keeps jamming because it's too bloody, etc.). The action is frighteningly credible.

The movie is a salute to the soldiers who go in and get it done in the worst possible conditions, though it's not an unabashed salute. James' squad members occasionally freak out and break down; James keeps powering through, a good man (he takes care to treat the locals humanely) with some serious problems. Jeremy Renner, a great actor who deserves to be much better known than he is, shows flashes of the death wish under James' laid-back demeanor. His men even briefly flirt with the idea of fragging him, because they figure he'll get them all killed — is he a genius or just extraordinarily lucky? Either way, he chuckles as he strides into yet another death-trap, and speaks almost tenderly to the bomb components, some of which he keeps under his bunk later.

There's not a scrap of politics in The Hurt Locker, as there also wasn't in last year's unfairly dismissed Stop-Loss — perhaps coincidentally, also directed by a woman (Kimberly Peirce). The two movies simply strive to be true to the experiences of those who serve or have served in Iraq. The film's coda is almost a miniature Stop-Loss — a soldier comes home and can't deal with things like chopping up carrots for dinner or shopping for cereal, and stop-losses himself right back into the fray.

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're trying to save, but they try anyway. The Hurt Locker 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).

Kathryn Bigelow has shown Hollywood how it's done: "The Hurt Locker" is the strongest and most satisfying thriller in years.

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originally posted: 06/29/09 06:07:05
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2009 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/12/11 Merle This a great movie to watch to see how IED are taken care of and is full o action. 5 stars
10/24/10 Jeff Wilder Not quite best picture. Still worth your time. 4 stars
6/12/10 Simon Beautifully shot by Bigelow. Some contrived plot points here or there, conveys a tough msg 4 stars
6/07/10 R.W.Welch Hits an occasional false note, but generally effective. 4 stars
6/07/10 GrandMaster T Superior, although not 'Best Pic' worthy, war drama. Great work from Jeremy Renner. 4 stars
4/04/10 mr.mike Loses steam towards the end , otherwise very good. 4 stars
4/02/10 Pienaar Boring movie...doesn't deserve a single oscar 2 stars
3/08/10 bill o really boring propaganda movie in fact, but hey, go Hollywood, go troops, go USA!! 1 stars
2/28/10 Butt Superior for action flick, overrated as best pic nomination 4 stars
1/31/10 Monday Morning Not the greatest date movie. Overrated. 3 stars
1/14/10 action movie fan mock documentary no escapism characters dull- the kingdom is far better 2 stars
12/30/09 randy todger awesome bill o really youre a boring cunt! 5 stars
9/10/09 MP Bartley Jangles the nerves superbly and Renner is terrific. 5 stars
8/16/09 bill o really Dick and W should have been in the bomb squad... this movie stinks 1 stars
8/02/09 Darkstar One of the best movies I've seen this year. 5 stars
7/23/09 Margaret This film seems contrived and dull 2 stars
7/20/09 Kazelqbd Hi webmaster! bvo 1 stars
7/03/09 Ming Its one of the best Iraq war drama that I have ever seen. The action keep you going 4 stars
6/30/09 alan worth a watch..all muslim guys..bull shit 3 stars
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  26-Jun-2009 (R)
  DVD: 12-Jan-2010


  DVD: 12-Jan-2010

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Kathryn Bigelow

Written by
  Mark Boal

  Ralph Fiennes
  Guy Pearce
  David Morse
  Jeremy Renner
  Anthony Mackie
  Brian Geraghty

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