What looks like a sandbox and smells like poop?

Give up?  Answer: The Hurt Locker.

But like sandboxes and pooping… The Hurt Locker can be a little bit of fun.

If you think about it, sand is fun to build stuff with, but in essence, there’s nothing grand about it; it’s just tiny rocks.  And pooping…let’s face it, is sometimes an inconvenience, but at the very least, gives you a well-deserved break from your job, day-to-day stessors, and like all us typical Americans, overeating.  The Hurt Locker is fun at points, but there’s nothing too deep about it.

And in comparison to pooping – a  break from your daily “duties” , but might be a bit of “a waste” [look at that! A double pun!].  Watcher beware.


US Army Sergeant First Class Will James (Jeremy Renner) joins Bravo Company in Iraq, having only a month or so left till they are relieved.  Sgt. James is a bomb disposal expert sent to replace former Bravo leader Sgt. Matt Thompson (Guy Pearce).  Sgt. James’ “cowboy approach” to bomb disposal clashes poorly with squad members Sgt. JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Spc. Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty ); whose main objective it to return home in one piece.

Don’t be fooled by my ‘poop’ simile, The Hurt Locker, is brilliant in several ways.  One particular example of brilliance lies within the character of SFC Will James, who (somehow) operates the battlefield with a searing focus.  He resembles Tom Sizemore’s character in Black Hawk Down*; someone not overly concern with death, but of getting the job done, by whatever means possible.  The role of “The Bomb Specialist,” in his huge, protective suit resembles an astronaut exploring a foreign planet.  This image is one that cinematically paints an atmosphere of isolation and danger, and portrays Sgt. James as a heroic figure on a perilous mission.  From this, one can easily tell that the director has a flair for the artistic [she actually spent 2 years at the San Francisco Art Institute as a painter].

The second dose of “the spectacular” comes in the overall “vibe” of the film.  Director Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days, Point Break) gives us a glimpse of Iraq without the politics; a battle on simple terms – Man vs. his fear of death.  The bombs that they are there to defuse are the very similar the the bombs they carry with themselves day-to-day through the war… either you adapt/disconnect the wiring, or you eventually detonate.

Where this movie fails (in this reviewer’s opinion) is mainly in Bigelow’s artistic styling, lack of supporting details and character traits.

Bigelow (the ex-wife of “Action film great” James Cameron) is fair, not great, as an action director.  Artistic action, such as Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, masterfully conveys depth and is clearly, poetry in motion.  Ridley Scott (Gladiator, G.I. Jane), on the other hand, is a veteran director whose directorial wizardry gives the eyes the full extent of light and motion, without overload.  Bigelow performs nicely with scenes involving tention, but nothing beyond what one might catch in an episode of 24.

At one point in the film, while under enemy fire, the camera fixates – in slow motion – on a bullet shell as it discharges from the sniper rifle, spins in the air and bounces on the desert sand.  The next shot, showed both the sniper and spotter, as the spotter looks through his binoculars and utters, “You got him [the bad-guy].”  With the consistently mounting tension of the scene, most viewers would be clamoring  for the result… for the bloody aftermath of that final shot… Bigelow just handed us a heaping handful of failure.   Word verification of a kill?  Only?  (Sheesh!)

Finally, (and there are certainly more concerns that reduced this film to a 6) I don’t understand the point of many of these bomb defusings.  I wouldn’t think a deserted road of sand and rubble merits a soldier’s life.  Certainly the main character wants to MacGyverishly defuse a record number of bombs in his extraordinary career, but don’t they have “bomb containment boxes/chambers”?  Why risk life and limb over such a small thing?  Why not walk up to the bomb, plant some c4 explosives on top of “the threat” and detonate (after clearing the area of bystanders/civilians of course)?  Never any explanation from the film.  Also, why the cumbersome and stuffy protective suit?  Either way, suit or naked, you’re as good as dead if you cut the wrong wire.   At least if you’re naked you would have a better chance of running to safety.

In conclusion… not a total dud, wonderful at parts, but not “explosive” enough for me.  Only 2 hrs. and 7 minutes, but felt like 3.

Let us hear what you thought!

* * *

*Kathryn Bigelow is noted for casting Tom Sizemore (i.e. Point Break, Strange Days).  I didn’t know this when I made the comparison to Sgt. Will James and Tom Sizemore’s character in Black Hawk Down.  This connection was made after noticing this little bit of trivia at  Must have been used as character model (at least in some capacity).


12 Responses to “THE HURT LOCKER :: ACTION :: 036”

  1. rpcutts Says:

    I really liked this film. I was worried after the 1st 20 minutes that it was going down a repetitive streak but that was soon dispelled. I was also concerned at the scene with Liam Neeson it was going to turn into an action movie.

    I liked the exploration of how an adrenaline junkie takes to war and how he endangers the lives of those around him. How when he returns home to a normal life he can’t adjust. The shots on the supermarket aisle and cleaning the gutter were excellent.

    I sat down to watch this film expecting a psychological exploration of men surrounded by people who have nothing but disdain for their presence trying to carry out a dangerous duty. It did not disappoint.

    I loved most of this film including the side story of the mistaken identity of Beckham. It’s not without flaws, few films are, but for me it’s an 8 (7.5 in my language) and the best film of 2009 I’ve seen. (That being said the competition is a little weak IMO, maybe I’m forgetting some films.)

    p.s. Your query about the use on bomb disposal units or lack thereof. That was how the team normally went about their business but Jeremy Renner’s character was so gung-ho he ignores this procedure. This is what sparks the tension among the team and is a key part of the story.

    Regarding the suits, they are used for shrapnel protection. You’re quite right if a pipe bomb goes off in your face then suit or no suit you’re meeting your maker. However, at a certain distance they make a life or death difference. As is demonstrated in the final bomb scene. It could be argued that the trade-off of speed for the protection isn’t worth it but that’s a grievance for the army not the film.

    • joycereview Says:

      hmmm… no Liam Neeson. That’d be awesome if it had though! I didn’t really get the feeling, however, that he was “an adrenaline junkie”, but rather, a dedicated and ballsy soldier that enjoyed the expertise behind the bomb makers and the creative process behind making and dismantling traps. Glad I was able to review a film that you liked. Thanks for the comment brother.

      • rpcutts Says:

        grrr… not Liam Neeson… I meant Ralph Fiennes. I constantly mix them up.

        In case you’re interested:

        • joycereview Says:

          Interesting article. Thanks for the link. That was very helpful. I learned much about explosions. I always thought it was more of “the schrapnel” tearing you to pieces rather than the “pulse” that collapses your internal organs that kills you. I was wrong. I am amazed.

  2. kevin kennedy Says:

    So Hurt locker gets 6 and down the page Avatar get 10 you have to be James king with reviews like that
    Avatar is one of the worse films i have seen for along time yes it looks great but please focus on the other parts as much like acting,characters,plot to name a few not just 3hrs of CGI,

    On the other hand the hurt locker is one of the best films of the last 10 years and one of the best war films up there with Path of glory(Kubrick) both films showing the horrors of war

    So please watch more films and stop wasting time printing idiot reviews about awful films

    What next Zodiac,Sidways,Donnie Darko all 2 star films please

    • joycereview Says:

      Wow. My first comment-giver to truly rip into me about my grading scale. I’ll let you in on a little secret… every reviewer is different, every reviewer bases his/her reviews on what they know of film/style/technique, and what they feel personally about what they see on the screen. For those that read the “grade” do not get the full scope of the review, and certainly if you take offense to what I personally think about any particular film, your reaction simply reflects your inability to hear another’s opinion (if it conflicts with your own). Calling my review “idiotic” only adds to my understanding that you’re not at the appropriate phase in your maturity to read reviews objectively. Avatar, in my opinion, was sensational… I enjoyed all the elements of the film and was thoroughly entertained. The Hurt Locker, bored me at times, frustrated me at times, but had several shining moments of brilliance. It is in no way a masterpiece… and I will not reflect that in my review (no matter how many people think it’s great!). And f.y.i. I wouldn’t give Zodiac or the other mentioned films 2 stars. Stay tuned for those down the road. One at review at a time! Peace

      • kevin kennedy Says:

        Avatar Sensational

        To give a comment like that you have not watched many films,everyone i know who watchs films like me and every critic i have read have ripped the film in pieces and so they should just the way they did when Titanic come out

        The film is just like Lord of the rings overlong with no great ideas in what makes cinema so great

        I know every reviewer is different and read alot of reviews and i listen to everyones views after they have watched different films and i take it on board but with the oscars coming up(i have hated them for a long time)i dont want idiot reviews giving ten stars to a awful film and helping it win the oscar the Hurt locker should have just like LA Confidental should of won in 98 and Pulp fiction should of beat the gump,and what do the all have in common the all got beat by some of the worst films in cinema history so if you are a true film fan get a cricket bat smack it around your head a watch it a second time because once was enough for me

        And by the way it will never get in my film collect until i have every film in the world i have nearly 4000 so long way to go before it gets in my house

        And if you give Fight club less than avatar then there will be war


        • joycereview Says:

          Seems like will be at odds over this one. If you recall (since the beginning), The Joyce Review doesn’t give fractions or half-claws… instead, we round up. And we clump everything (style, entertainment, re-watchability, acting, etc) into one final grade. Obviously you’re a big fan of The Hurt Locker, so I will not be swaying you of your opinion (It’s never my intention). However, let it be known that some of my reviews might actually be more like this: Avatar 9.5 (which rounds to a 10). Either way, it scores high marks in my book. I agree with your stance on the Oscars. I don’t even watch them. No need to get hot and bothered over award shows. Films, like all stories, have much to do with “how it affects you.” For example, famous movie critic Gene Siskel’s favorite movie of all time was Saturday Night Fever. Fair movie… not great… but was a critic’s top film. We, evidently do not have the same tastes, as I also enjoyed Lord of the Rings. We might have to get the sparring gloves on also, because Fight Club?… it was alright. 😉

  3. Helicon Says:

    I thought this was an excellent film, and extremely worthy of the Academy awards it received.

  4. kevin kennedy Says:

    So much for Avatar last night , as you gave UP 10 i see that you have found better films to watch that were done on paintshop

    Anyway good on you bigelow you made a great film and thanks for killing 3D Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    • joycereview Says:

      Oh well. Praise the Academy Awards if you want, or just when they happen to agree with you. Either way, it was The Joyce Review’s fear that this would happen. Undeserving (although not completely) The Hurt Locker showed us nothing more than what has been shown before in a war movie and nothing near what a true action flic should be (in my opinion). Paintshop? Wow! 3d is the future for certain movies and I’m not going to hate on that. Avatar had people that went to see it 4 or 5 times in the theater. Many would slit their wrists if they saw Bigelow’s 4-5 times. If they were conflicted, they should have given Avatar Best Picture and Bigelow, Best Director.

      • kevin kennedy Says:

        Stupied comments up top, i am off there is no hope Avatar 10 star,Hurt Locker 6 and 3D is the future

        You say you are film fan

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