Hurt Locker, The

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Mar 08, 2010
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Kathryn Bigelow

Release Date(s)

2009 (January 12, 2010)

Studio(s)

Summit Entertainment

Review

Coming out of left field, one of the most surprising independent films released in 2009 was The Hurt Locker, a roller coaster ride of a drama based on the lives of three men in an Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad stationed in Iraq.  The film is the product of the first-hand accounts of writer Mark Boal, who was a journalist during the war in Iraq, and Point Break director Kathryn Bigelow.

Taking place three years after 9/11, the story follows the dangerous daily routines of the squad as they move from one bomb disposal assignment to the next, while trying to escape with their lives.  Shot with multiple cameras and given a documentary-feel, it’s very much an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride with a heavy emphasis on character.  Jeremy Renner is pitch-perfect as off-kilter Sergeant First Class William James, who communicates directly with his team members Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldrige (Brian Geraghty) via radio as he disarms devices littered throughout the countryside.  The Hurt Locker is a tight and excellent drama that’s very well paced and edited.  The only downside for me was the ending, which felt a bit out of character for the overall story.

The film was released with high critical appraisal, but sort of looked down on by (some) veterans and those still serving for its inaccuracy in certain areas.  I’d like to talk a little about that now.  Movies, no matter how close to reality they manage to get, can never replace or fully recreate real life experience.  As with the theater, cinema is a fictitious playground that blurs the lines of reality to appropriately and coherently portray a story that works for an audience.  Cinema has an advantage over the theater, however, in that it can blur those lines more accurately by using authentic locations, costumes, props, etc.  Doing this gives everything a hyper-reality, which is a far more advantageous and viable method of telling a story.  But the key word here is story, not biography or history.  While I respect those serving our country, they shouldn’t put too much weight on this film or rely on the filmmakers to give a 100% accurate account of these things.  The only way to equal that kind of experience is to actually be a part of it.  Now that I’ve said my piece, let’s move on to the Blu-ray disc itself.  [See Additional Notes below for more comments on the controversy relating to the film from the Site Editor.]

The Hurt Locker looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  There’s a high level of grain throughout the film as a deliberate stylistic choice.  I happen to love seeing a film print accurately recreated with that level of detail, but it’s a preference point, I suppose.  Colors are nice and ripe, which are tans and browns for the most part.  There’s also a high level of contrast which makes the print look enormously bright, especially during all of the outdoor scenes.  Make no mistake though, this is a very crisp presentation.  The soundtrack holds together exceptionally well too.  The English 5.1 DTS-HD track really pumps out the sound and makes wonderful use of the entire soundfield.  With bullets whizzing by and explosions giving the subwoofer a good workout, I couldn’t have been more satisfied.  You also get an optional English Dolby Digital 2.0 track and a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as well as English and Spanish subtitles for those who might need them.

The extras here are on the light side.  They start off with an audio commentary by director Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal.  To be honest, I found it to be quiet boring as they offer very little insight into the making of the film and spend the time, more or less, complimenting each other and the rest of the crew.  Next, you get the featurette The Hurt Locker: Behind the Scenes, which is 12 1/2 minutes in length.  It breezes over the details very swiftly and doesn’t give that much more insight than the commentary.  There’s also an image gallery, featuring various stills from the set, with the option of listening to a Q & A recorded at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London while the slideshow of pictures moves by.

If you’re in it for the film presentation, then you can’t go wrong with this release of The Hurt Locker in high-definition.  The Hurt Locker is a terrific little film that should keep your heart pounding for its two hour duration, and offer you a glimpse of what some of the men and women who serve have to face in their everyday duties (even if it isn’t completely accurate).

Tim Salmons

 

Additional Notes

Editor’s Note: I thought it was important to weigh in here with a few words on the issues that Tim describes above.  After reading this review, a few Bits readers (who happen to be soldiers) e-mailed us to comment on the film’s unrealistic depictions of the way soldiers operate, and we certainly take their point.  Among these are the E.O.D. squad splitting up to go down three darkened alleys alone, traveling without escort, their occasionally reckless actions during bomb disposal work, etc.  I must admit, I had problems with these things as well when watching the film.  On the other hand, the reason I think audiences have still embraced this movie, is that it’s more about the characters than the action – it’s a study in why these soldiers do what they do.  I think civilians relate to the pride the Sergeant takes in his obviously very dangerous job (he does it because he believes in it, knows he’s saving lives, etc), and the difficulty he faces, after doing that job for months on end, in dealing with mundane daily concerns Stateside.  Civilian audiences empathize with the guy – and with all soldiers, I think – more after seeing this film.  The film helps them to better understand the reality that coming home from war can be just as hard as (if not harder than) going to war.  So they use words like “important” and “revealing” when talking about it.  And whereas actual soldiers understandably have a very hard time getting past the film’s job-related inaccuracies, civilians don’t see those as much and simply form an emotional connection to the soldiers depicted.  Ultimately, I think the message conveyed by the film – and the impression left by it on civilian audiences – is a good one, even if it’s still in many ways a far from fully accurate depiction of the Iraq war or the way American soldiers operate.

- Bill Hunt, Editor

 

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