Bombs Without, Explosives Within

‘The Hurt Locker’ is about the volatility of character

By William Kirschner

Contributing Writer

“War is a drug,” said former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges. In The Hurt Locker, Staff Sgt. William James, played by Jeremy Rennar, is a full-blown addict.

The film follows Bravo Co., an explosive-ordnance disposal squad in Baghdad, Iraq in 2004. Director Kathryn Bigelow(Point Break) shows it’s not a job for the faint of heart. The squad has to get up close with improvised explosive devices (IEDS), which have been the trademark weapon of the insurgency in Iraq.

The most surprising thing about the movie is that, rather than focus on the larger political issues of the war, it focuses on the character of the soldiers fighting it. Bravo Co. is comprised of a three man team, including James, Sgt. J.T. Seaborn (played by Anthony Mackie) and Spec. Owen Elridge (Brian Geraghty), whose safety depends on their ability to work together.

Their personal issues, however, make it hard for them to work together. The combination of an adrenaline junkie, a man who fears death is around every corner and an overly cautious soldier with nothing to go home to creates a volatile squad dynamic.

The movie doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the action sequences. A long sniper duel leaves fans on the edges of their seats for what feels like an hour. Whenever Bravo Co. is disarming a bomb, you’ll find yourself holding your breath.

What makes the action sequences so good is the suspense created by the lulls in action. When Bravo Co. is disarming a bomb, they have to deal with the fact that anyone around them could be trying to kill them. A man in civilian clothes with a cell phone could detonate the bomb and kill them.

The Hurt Locker doesn’t spared viewers any of the gore, and the end result of an IED is one of the goriest things you’ll ever see.

Rennar’s performance is superb. He goes through the full range of emotions from cocksure bomb disarmer to crying in the shower with his clothes on. Rennar’s character is the most believable and the most unique action movie character I’ve ever seen. His bravado seems so real, but the movie reveals his very human side when he leaves the compound to try and find the killer of a young Iraqi boy.

This movie is testosterone-packed. A perfect example is the time the squad spends behind the wire in the compound. Drinking and wrestling in their time off quickly turns into a test to see who the “ultimate man” is. But like the rest of the movie, Bigelow turns the scene on its head.

Hand-held camera shots create a shaky, gritty feel that works surprisingly well. The angles of the shots are innovative, often coming from the top or side to give you a different view of the action. Barry Ackroyd, director of photography, does an amazing job making the most of the Jordanian location, creating an interesting and believable set.

The movie is exhilarating at some points, depressing at others but doesn’t have a boring moment. Don’t go to see the The Hurt Locker looking for lighthearted summer fun but rather an interesting character study.