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.
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 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.