The Hurt Locker: War is a Drug (2008)

Posted: February 29, 2012 in Drama, Thriller, War

In 2004, an elite bomb squad in Baghdad travels throughout the city where everyone appears to be dangerous. Using protective suits and disarming robots, the squad is well protected but loses its leader when a mission turns awry. To replace the lost soldier, Sergeant First Class William James becomes the new leader of a squad. Sergeants JT Sanborn and Owen Eldridge are surprised to learn of their leader’s apparent recklessness as they experience the leadership of a man obsessed with the experience of war. The squad enters into several missions to scout out and disarm possible IEDs and enemy combatants. With each mission, there seems to be greater danger awaiting them, drawing out their fear, anger and true characters of each of the soldiers.

Starring: Jeremy Renner (Sergeant First Class William James), Anthony Mackie (Sergeant JT Sanborn), Brian Geraghty (Specialist Owen Eldridge), Guy Pearce (Staff Sergeant Matt Thompson), Ralph Fiennes (Contractor Team Leader), David Morse (Col. Reed), Evangeline Lilly (Connie James), Christian Camargo (Col. John Cambridge)

In this representation of the wartime experience, each of the actors brings an intensity and development of their military personas. Jeremy Renner solidified himself for a much larger career through this role. As the Sergeant First Class, Renner shows what the experience of war can do to a man, enhancing one’s obsession with the completion of the mission and engrossing themselves with the violence and combat. He shows little remorse for the actions he takes and the decisions that put his men in harm’s way. Anthony Mackie as Sanborn shows a little more temperament in his instructive manner during the missions and shows an immediate clash with Renner’s character. While he is certainly willing to serve his country, he is also a bit more level-headed. Brian Geraghty as Eldridge is initially okay with his character’s involvement in the war effort but is shaken up by the death of his former squad leader. Guy Pearce serves as the initial squad leader and has a combination of bravery and confidence in his one major scene.

Kathryn Bigelow put together a film that would try to capture the intensity and experience of going through a war zone. Throughout the film, the Army’s Bravo Company finds themselves called on for multiple bomb threats which do not just represent the challenge of defusing the devices but managing the drama of the team. Staff Sergeant Matt Thompson’s death leaves both Sanborn and Eldridge at a lost. For Sanborn, he feels remorse for his lost comrade, but Eldridge is challenged at his core after feeling at fault for the accident. Eldridge’s visit with the staff psychologist highlights the stress and distress many of America’s soldiers experience during and after the horrors of war. William James poses a different problem. Showing a complete lack of respect for the lost soldier, he takes over the squad with little regard for the experience and intelligence of the two men. This creates a rift for power that also exists in the competitive environment of the military. While they are supposed to be working together as a squad, James fails to recognize his own obsession and negligence.

This film put up a fight with Avatar and won in the overall battle for Oscar gold. Snagging the sound categories, film editing, directing and best picture, The Hurt Locker did more than simply show a human war drama, but it presented the harshness of the terrain and the deafening silence of a bomb disarmament and standoff. As the different soldiers made their way toward the several bombs in the film, the wind, rustling of the bomb suit and occasional discussion of the soldiers provided the soundtrack of each intense moment. Bigelow provides significant detail in every scene that even heightened the attention to the films visual effects and cinematography. She also helped to direct the acting performances of Renner, Mackie and Geraghty in a way that helped to maintain the sense of humanity in what could have appeared to be an emotionless environment.

While the film may not be the best war film in cinema history, The Hurt Locker took a very real, current experience of war in Iraq and brought the experience back to the American public. Some may be challenged by the amount of action or variability in one’s ability to connect with the characters, but the challenges that Renner’s character experiences toward the end of the film serves as an excellent discussion point regarding one’s feelings about war.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

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