War films have the tedious task of telling a new story using the same settings over and over again. While there have been a few stand-out original films done on the subject, it’s easy to just fall into the been-there-done-that bin, and simply become another forgetful entry in the genre. The Hurt Locker is nowhere near that bin, and it takes us on a ride that will leave your nerves shot at the end of it.
The story follows a U.S. Army bomb squad that finds itself in the final month and a half of their current tour in Iraq. The squad is comprised of SSgt. William James (Jeremy Renner), Sgt. JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), and Spc. Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), and it is their job to diffuse bombs safely in public areas, though they each have their own view on the job they do, and the war they’re fighting. Each view presented is done so without preaching and/or giving the feeling that each team member has his own agendas or don’t want the same thing in the end. This is where the storytelling comes through strongly, as writer Mark Boal (a journalist who embedded himself with a military bomb squad) hits all the right marks, making this a team that stands toe to toe with each other, while also watching each other’s backs.
With the acting being top notch, and the story being as strong as it is, the only thing left that could hinder the film in the end would be the direction, and cinematography; though those both end up being the best parts of the film. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker brings out the desolate landscapes of the desert, as well as the bustling city streets that can both turn on these soldiers at any time. Her direction together with the cinematography of Barry Ackroyd (United 93) make this one of the most intense films of 2009, if not the last decade.
The way Bigelow and Ackroyd bring the viewer right into the action is perfect. While watching I actually felt that I could be shot at any time. As silly as that may sound, that’s a huge factor in showing just how well this film was shot, as the viewer will feel the pure adrenaline and fear that goes into these scenarios, even though we’re safe as can be sitting on the couch.
The Hurt Locker does magnificently what all war movies strive to do in telling an original story in a genre where the same stories are usually told time and time again, just from different angles. It’ll be a contender for best picture by the Academy, no doubt, and in their own categories, Bigelow and Ackroyd shouldn’t be far behind.
The video transfer of The Hurt Locker comes in at a gorgeous MPEG 4-AVC 1080p. The film is vibrant, and alive, and only helps transfer you into the seat with these men as they go about their final days in Iraq. The audio also comes out clear in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. Again, it sounds beautiful, and it comes out clear and crisp.
Audio Commentary with Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal – Bigelow and Boal make something that can be quite boring, depending on who‘s giving it, quite exciting in this commentary. Boal who drew from his experiences as a journalist, is full of stories that are informative to anyone who enjoyed the film.
The Hurt Locker: Behind the Scenes – Coming in at around 12 minutes, this behind the scenes featurette talks with the cast and crew about the filming methods used by Bigelow, and their experiences filming abroad. It’s interesting, though on the shorter end of things. While the other features make up for the lack of information here, more talk with the actors could have been intriguing.
Image Gallery – Coming in at just over 20 minutes, this gallery shows some pictures from behind the scenes, as well as various shots of the filming process. It would be tedious without the optional audio-commentary of Bigelow and Boal from a Q & A session they recorded…unless you just really love silent slide shows that is.
The Hurt Locker is one of the handful of films that actually has a shot at taking home the Best Picture award at this year’s Academy Awards; and that honor is completely justified. The extras may seem slim, though the information given by Bigelow and Boal in the audio commentary alone is a much stronger extra than some of those found in a EPK. This film is amazing, and you can’t help but feel vulnerable while watching. That’s the sign of a perfectly done movie, and one that should find itself in your collection at some point in the near future.
Summit Entertainment presents The Hurt Locker. Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow. Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty. Written by: Mark Boal. Running time: 131 minutes. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray: Jan. 12, 2010 Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Academy Awards, Jeremy Renner, Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker