The Hurt Locker Review

Published 6 years ago by

Short Version: The Hurt Locker captures the drama, suspense and raw emotion of a job that very few people survive. It may possibly be the best movie of the summer.

hurtlocker The Hurt Locker Review

Screen Rant's Paul Young reviews 'The Hurt Locker'

The Hurt Locker has been slowly building up steam since it was released in Italy last year. The movie came out of nowhere to earn much kudos and critical acclaim with both viewers and movie critics alike – it won the Signis Grand Prize at the 2008 Venice Film Festival and currently has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. To top it off, the film has made more money per theater than any other film in release right now, including Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.

The Hurt Locker revolves around three army EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) specialists in Iraq – these guys are the bomb squad of the military world. They go in and disarm IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) while the rest of the military hangs back and waits. The job is very stressful… The chance of being blown to bits every time you work will do that – and survival requires discipline, training and the utmost faith in your team.

From the start you can tell the Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) is a by-the-book type of soldier. To him, his job is to make sure that all of his teammates make it through their rotation and come home alive and unhurt – and he takes the job very seriously.  Sanborn has a good head on his shoulders and he’s willing to do what it takes to keep his comrades safe even if it means mission failure.

Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) is a follower. That’s a good thing to be when you are in the military but it also means he has a hard time making decisions for himself. That personality flaw is clearly evident in an opening scene where he spots danger but hesitates in eliminating it, which ultimately costs the team big time.

Enter Staff Sergeant William James, played brilliantly by Jeremy Renner. James is an adrenaline junkie who gets his rush from disposing bombs. He won’t put his team into harm’s way to get his fix, but he regularly takes reckless personal chances that do not sit well with Sgt. Sanborn. Most of film’s focus is on James, Sanborn and Eldrige as the trio work to come together as team, while constantly faced with the threat of being blown apart.

the hurt locker movie image 1 The Hurt Locker Review

Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner)

The Hurt Locker was a fantastic movie in every way. From the opening scene to the closing credits, the movie puts its characters in intense situations and makes you feel their frustration, fear and excitement. Kathryn Bigelow, director of Point Break and K-19: The Widowmaker, is in top form helming this script by Mark Boal, who also co-wrote In The Valley of Elah.

Both Elah and The Hurt Locker are based on stories from Iraq, which is not surprising consider Boal was a journalist in Iraq for several years. Boal has written a much better story this time around, in my opinion, because he has given each character enough time to fully develop so that the audience actually cares about what happens to them.

There are several decent cameos throughout the film: Guy Pearce, David Morse and Ralph Fiennes. Of all the cameos, Ralph Fiennes’ is the best and his scene is pretty intense. Though brief, Fiennes’ cameo is game-changing moment for James and the EOD Unit.

Since I first heard about The Hurt Locker, the number one question I asked myself was: “How much political nonsense is in it?” I am pleased to answer: None! Any and all political overtones are missing from this film, and personally, I find it very refreshing to have a movie about the military that doesn’t try to paint them in a biased light just because the director decided to mix political documentary with the action/drama.

I’m not going to say that everyone should watch this film, but I will say that if you enjoy a quality thriller, then you should definitely go see The Hurt Locker. It just might be the best film of the summer and if you are lucky enough to live in one of the 14 cities where it is being released, then you absolutely need to make it part of your summer movie line up.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5

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  1. lol

  2. comment missing, i just might have to check this out now.

  3. Sounds great. I was originally only going to rent this one, but after reading this review, I think I may watch this one on the big screen. I’ve always been a fan of Jeremy Renner so I hope this one continues to do good at the box office. Good review Paul.

  4. Cool review,! Ha! Sounds good I’m going to see this tomarrow for sure,,,
    Looking at what’s out there, this is the best thing playing right now besides “Moon”.
    “Not a Potter Fan”

  5. No political nonsense?
    The main character is a Soldier who put his buddies lives at risk because he is addicted to adrenaline .
    I liked the fact they shot in the middle east.
    It added to the sense ofrealism
    The bomb scenes were very intense, as were the combat scenes .
    But why does there have to something wrong with him Psychologically for him to be a great Bomb Tech?
    Are firemen Unstable because they run into buildings every day?
    I am sure its really rough being a a Bomb Tech In iraq .
    But considering that these young men risk their lives everyday over there,
    it would have been nice To see a little less of the instabilty and a little bit more of the heroism of these brave men .

  6. No politics? The Hurt Locker is plenty political. Not that having a political bias is necessarily a bad thing — some of the best films of all time are intensely political. I’m wondering, though, how a film whose theme, “War Is a Drug”, and whose protagonist has been so twisted by that drug that he says he cannot love his son anymore, can be described as nonpolitical.

    That’s not the problem with this film, though. The problem, as with In the Valley of Elah, is the script. Bigelow does a great job building up tension within each scene, but the script doesn’t allow for much tension to be carried over from scene to scene. The awesome action set pieces can’t make up for the lack of a strong overarching plot that holds it all together, made all the worse by a 130-minute runtime.

    Two more annoying things:
    1. David Morse’s cameo made such an impression that I kept expecting him to come back, maybe as the main antagonist.
    2. The Iraqis, with one exception, have no personality. The terrorists, screaming women and silent faces in the crowd are all interchangeable with each other. Even Beckham’s personality doesn’t go any further than “innocent child corrupted by American consumer culture.”

    I love Katherine Bigelow, and I hope this film signals a big comeback for her, but I also hope she picks a better scripted project next time.

  7. Hopefully you’re right about it not having political overtones… Might end up seeing it if that’s true.

  8. @JJ – I did not see the political undertones you are referring to. I saw a guy, James, that was a junkie. Junkies do anything to get their fix including abandoning their children. He could have been strung out on smack but the writer choose adrenaline instead. I say good choice. Junkies are in no way political. If he were on street drugs, then I might give you some wiggle room to infer something politicial becasue Republicans and Democrats differ on their opinions on that subject. It was not so I can not give agree with you there.

    A political overtone would be a movie like “WHere in the World is Osama bin Laden?”, “Syrania” and “Black Hawk Down”. There was none of that in this movie. And yes there are fireman addicted to the rush, policemen as well. Not all of them but there are a few, just like the movie didn’t portray all of the EOD members as addicted to the rush.

  9. Looks good… Thanks for the heads up.

  10. Paul, what was the most intense moment for you in this film considering there were a lot!
    For me, honestly it would have to be the sniper stand-off. Beginning to end really enjoyed that scene.

    The one thing that gripes me is a certain Lostie cameo. This person doesn’t do anything and gets a huge credit. They could have put anyone in that role and it wouldn’t have mattered.

  11. I have to admit the tagline for the film certainly had me worried. I’ll have to see for myself when it comes around.


  12. @SK-47 – The sniper stand off was my favorite scene btu the one with the most drama was between him and the boy in the building. Without spoiling it for anyone I think you know which scene I’m referring to.

  13. @Paul: I guess I was expecting a “nonpolitical” Iraq War movie to portray American soldiers as stand-up guys. I don’t mean I wanted a John Wayne movie, and I get battlefield cynicism; Brothers at War and Blackhawk Down are among the finest war movies of the last twenty years. Since Vietnam, however, one half of the culture war in America has again and again portrayed soldiers as unhealthy nutjobs who can’t adjust to ordinary life. That does describe some soldiers’ real-life experiences, and The Hurt Locker humanizes James relatively nicely, but the bit about his son is a lot to take, and I have to question Boal’s “nonpolitical” intentions.

  14. @JJ – I see your point now. I guess I just didn’t take it that way but I can understand where you are coming from.

  15. Ladies & Gentlemen,

    This movie was one of THE BEST WAR MOVIE of our times. It rival Saving Private Ryan in a few ways. First, The Hurt Locker brings reality of the Iraq war home. The movie shows the obstacles the EOD guys have to go through before engaging a device. The director made sure the actors felt the kind of heat endurance the EOD guys do. By putting them in the “Real Deal” suit, which is heavy & hot as balls. The character development was dead on. Military guys don’t always understand each other and have to find a common ground if they are gonna survive. While sitting their watching the movie. Every time Staff Sergeant James put on the blast suit, I got hot. When Sgt. James approached a device, I felt the anxiety. The movie in short puts you There. You will appreciate the movie and what those guys (EOD) do for our country.

  16. Sounds good I’ll have to check it out. If it really doesn’t have political undertones being shoved down my throat I’ll probably love it based on this review. I’ll be honest I had only heard the title of the film and the cast before today I really had no idea what it was about.

  17. Vic, why the limited release on something that sounds great? I have always like Bigelow, but I will not drive 2hrs to go see any movie.

  18. @Ray O

    They probably figured it didn’t have mass appeal and wouldn’t earn that much.


  19. I this movie will get a better theatrical release. Now that it’s getting Great Reviews & is being sort after.

  20. Is there a list of the cities it has been released in, I’m gonna see Harry Potter tomorrow, been on a Theater spree lately, and after reading the Review I really want to see this one, I’m liking the cast too.

  21. @bigDog – check out shows all of the theaters and release dates.

  22. I know an army officer who served in Iraq as the head of an EOD unit for two tours of duty. Thankfully, he is now home safely, but it was extremely stressful for his family while he was deployed. They never knew if each phone call was the last time they would talk to him. I cannot imagine the things he must have seen, or how he must have felt, on the job. I’m not sure if I could see this movie, knowing someone who did this for three years.

  23. Saw this, maybe 6 months ago, and it’s still a film i have clear in my mind. Great performances (especially Mackie and Renner) and the tension at times was just unbearable.

  24. Finally saw this today and I was very impressed. This is one of those films that is practically flawless in every way. The only thing it lacked was a memorable film score. Other than that one of the best films of the year.

  25. Great film. I’m so glad it finally made it to my local theaters. I didn’t think it would.

    What I like most is that this is a low budget movie that feels huge in scope. We find out quick what those bombs are capable of and every minute after is tense without needing to have explosions and gore everywhere. Smart filmmaking and a surprisingly strong cast.

  26. @Jeffrey VC, right on bro.
    “Hurt Locker” was epic, I can’t wait to get it on dvd.

    I loved the early scene where held off the guy in the car. Great film!!!!

  27. Oh yah, I saw the movie too, I thought the movie was pretty good, the only thing I didn’t really like was the occassional political message they threw into it and the main character that was just about the biggest “I’m a bad-ass” douche-bag I have ever seen. Another thing I found kind of weird was how in the sniper scene they made it seem like the SVD Dragunov MARKSMAN rifle, NOt sniper rifle, is somehow more accurate than the Barrett .50, either that or the good guys just sucked real bad as snipers, lol.

  28. Oops, the only things, lol. Anyway, Saw this and Funny People on the same day, lol, 5 hours of movies just about, lol.

  29. Been to Iraq 3 times, and yeah what Jeremy Renner’s character was feeling is all too common among soldiers who return from the warzone…after being there so many times you begin to feel either guilty about not being there, or you feel that some how thats the only place where your worth anything. I guess I was somewhat biased against the movie the same way die hard fans of a certain movie are…I really wanted to like it but I was more bothered by all the things I found wrong with the movie. It was a great war movie but it wasnt accurate. I found alot of things wrong with the movie below are a few that bothered me.
    ****Spoiler Alert******

    1. The movie takes place in Iraq in 2004 but everyone was running around in ACU’s and up-armored Humvee’s. ACU’s dident come out until late 2005-06 and Up-armored Humvees consisted of Mad max armor until around the same time.

    2. They made the EOD team seem as if they were SF (Special Forces) which bothered me alot. There was no way these guys were rolling out into Iraq with only one Humvee and doing raids and infantry tactics lol.

    3. Most of the insurgents (especially insurgent snipers) were poorly trained and even if they had training I dident see how they could take out an entire British Special Ops team lol. And it was almost unbelievable that EOD soldiers could get up on a .50 cal sniper rifle and kill snipers from more than 2 miles away lol.

    4. I guess for the most part I dident like how they portrayed soldiers in Iraq. Alot of the things those soldiers did in the movie would have ended up in a court marshall or a reduction in rank. All war movies are going to have some sort of political undertone. I thought it was a great movie but not accurate for what was going on in Iraq at the time.

    • for some reason i think american directors like killing off an entire british special forces team, what they dont know is that during the entire conflict only six men died in total in iraq, 12 in afghanistan.
      the amount of damage four SAS troops can do is like a small army, and tbh compared to delta they outperfom them by miles for example if they did the black hawk down scenario they wouldnt go in a massive bloody force where they can be seen by the whole militia but infil covertly while a supporting force either creates a distraction or comes in after they have the blokes, then exfil covertly in such a way they wouldnt have been seen.