The Hurt Locker (2008) (R)

Hurt locker refers to severe least, that's what some people claim. It's also the name of a song by the rapper Xzibit in which he welcomes to the listener to "my world of hurt". Ultimately it's the writer, Mark Boal's word for the meaning of his title that I would take the most literally, because in this case—he wrote the book. According to him, hurt locker refers to the place you will be if a bomb goes off near you; or, as the poet said, a "world of hurt".
The film "The Hurt Locker" was remarkably well-timed, released right when the war in Iraq was at a peak in the people's minds. It is a shame that so few people have actually seen this movie. Though it raked in six Oscars, it barely broke even as far as profit goes. What people haven't seen, or have, is one of the most exquisite movies to come out in recent years.
"The Hurt Locker" follows the movement of the last days of rotation for Bravo Company in Iraq. In it, we find a bomb unit, a specialist team that disarms bomb in tricky situations.
That is the core the movie; but what the film is saying is more interesting to analyze. Opposed to what one might think, "The Hurt Locker" isn't a straight-up anti-war movie, though it would be justified in being one.
The opening statement written on the screen comes from Chris Hedges: "The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug." The rest of the quote fades away leaving "war is a drug" on the screen for a few more seconds to let that sink in to the viewer's mind.
The protagonist of the film is the bafflingly complex and original Sergeant James who is so blunt that he remains enigmatic for the whole movie.
The two other characters of any importance are Sergeant Sanborn and Specialist Eldridge who accompany James.
The restlessness of the character's thoughts and the area that they are serving in is reflected by the brilliant cinematography of Barry Ackroyd which is in constant movement. The movie sucks you into its world and suffocates you there. No other movie has quite the opening scene that "The Hurt Locker" has.
One particular scene that stuck with me throughout all the other movies and the many months it's been since I last saw "The Hurt Locker" until today could be reduced to a simple shot. A man, looking through the sights of a gun with a fly crawling over his eye and not blinking—so determined on what he is looking at that it's as if he doesn't even notice the insect.
It's the little shots like this in which Kathryn Bigelow, the director, establishes herself as a fine filmmaker. This movie would gain her an Oscar and she would become the first woman to win the award for directing.
"The Hurt Locker" quite non-sided, puts forth a question that it itself cannot answer: what is a hero and what is a coward? By many definitions James is a hero, he risks his own life and has disarmed well over 800 bombs in Iraq, but he's also a coward. He's running from his home and his family and he's too selfish in the desire for the adrenaline high he gets from explosives to sacrifice it to give his family the emotion support that they need. Obviously, it's a little softer than that; but the point is that James is flawed. He's human, capable of making mistakes—this is what makes the film so effective. The script has many layers and a new one is seen on each viewing which is a rarity.
"The Hurt Locker" is sensationally powerful, a barreling inferno of a film, it will burn you up.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars.

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