The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker

Film review by: Witney Seibold

The Hurt Locker 1

I suspect that Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker,” will, more than any other film about the war in Iraq, be used as an exemplar for the modern soldier. “The Hurt Locker” is a terse and brilliant film that not only maps, in detail, the everyday mechanics of the way soldiers are fighting this war, but bothers to examine the psychology of a soldier. Gone are the days of “Stop-Loss,” where soldiers were all honest, hard-working, good-ol’-boys who jus’ wanted to get home to their sweethearts. We now have to accept the facts that many soldiers, once their tours have ended, feel compelled to return to duty. Not out of inspiring patriotism, but because they have become addicted.

Jeremy Renner, a fine actor, plays Staff Sergeant William James. James is an expert at disarming bombs and IEDs, which is handy, as American soldiers in Iraq see more IEDs than they do actual enemy guns. James has reached a point in his tour of duty where he seems to care less and less for organized military decorum, and more about charging recklessly into danger zones to haphazardly yank on bomb wires and Git’rDone. This drives his unit crazy (his unit consists of Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, and Christian Camargo), but he seems to be good at his job, as his is himself, as yet, unexploded.

Raw, harrowing, and realistic, the war segments of “The Hurt Locker” seem to be one of the most realistic depictions of modern combat in recent cinema. The soldiers are either harshly jaded, desperate to return home, or severely fearful. The staff psychiatrist (Camargo) knows what to say, but can’t really express himself in a way that would get the soldiers to listen. “If you’ve only seen what I’ve seen” keeps being floated about. Even the locals cannot be trusted; when James befriends a local 12-year-old DVD bootlegger named Beckham (Christopher Syaegh), it’s unclear as to whether or not the boy is a playful child growing up in a harsh environment, or some kind of insurgent himself. We do see him later under some pretty grim circumstances.

The film’s most damning scenes come near the end, when we see James living his day-to-day life back in America. After defusing bombs, watching people die, living on the edge, constantly remaining suspicious, and surviving on large doses of death-flavored adrenaline, how can one decide what to buy in a grocery store? No mere fable of PTSD, “The Hurt Locker” really bothers to get under the skin.

Teenagers need to se this film. It is rated “R,” so if you have teenage children, I recommend that you take them. If they sneak in without your knowledge, don’t reprimand them; congratulate them for managing to see one of the best films of the year.

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N.B. Recognizable name actors like Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, and Guy Pearce each appear in small but outstanding roles.

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Published in: on August 25, 2009 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

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