The Hurt Locker has a pulse-pounding intensity and a refreshing lack of agenda which serves to distill any political thoughts you may have brought with you about the Iraqi war and let you immerse in the lives of a bomb-squad team in 2004. The unseen villains of the piece are the diabolical bomb-makers, who come up with escalating and horrific scenarios in which to use IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) to destroy the American “invaders”.
Against them is the rebellious anti-hero of the story, Sgt. James(played by Jeremy Renner), who often disregards procedural safety protocols because he (rightly) believes it won’t save him should any of the devices blow up while he’s trying to defuse them. He comes to the team after the first commander is pulped by an IED that is remotely detonated while his is trying to diffuse it – we see that his regard for safety armor doesn’t save him in the end, even when he still manages to run 100 feet away before the device explodes.
His new team, played by Anthony Mackie (you may recognize him from 8 Mile) and Brian Geraghty, are thrown and disturbed by Sgt. James’ antics and attitude, and also perceive that he is good at his job because he gets off on it. Indeed, his wife and child bear the brunt of his feeding, as he returns again and again for more tours for the rush. He is exceptional at facing death, and reluctantly embraces the talent.
The film has many stark images that have stuck with me in the weeks since I’ve seen it. The sniper battle, the discovery of the child-corpse-bomb, the diffusing of a car-load of bombs, the face-to-face mirthlessly funny encounter between James and a man who rushes to remotely detonate the bombs underneath him, the tense off-duty moments which are every bit as threatening as the ones in the field. The film is a threaded series of moments that results in a movie deserving of the lauding it has received.