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The Hurt Locker - Review

The Hurt Locker

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

KATHRYN Bigelow further enhances her reputation as one of the best action directors in the business with The Hurt Locker, a searing portrait of bomb disposal in Iraq that also has to rate as one of the best films of the year.

Working from a painfully authentic script from journalist Mark Boal, who was himself embedded with a real-life bomb disposal unit in Iraq, Bigelow has created an extremely tense, even draining experience, that will have you on the edge of your seat for the better part of two hours.

In doing so, she has also created one of the best war movies ever made… and one that refuses to take sides, so much as showing what it takes to be a member of an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit.

The film follows a trio of bomb disposal experts led by the cavalier Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) and also comprising Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and youngster Eldridge (Brian Geraghty).

All three are coming to the end of a year-long tour and tensions among them are high, particularly as Sanborn believes James to be a risk-taker whose ballsy approach continually places all three of them in jeapordy.

From first moment to last, Bigelow’s film succeeds in creating an atmosphere of uncertainty that means audiences will never feel quite sure what she has in store for her characters next.

Some survive, others don’t… and there’s no room for sentimentality or jingoistic flag-waving.

Rather, The Hurt Locker opts to examine what it takes to become an EOD member, suggesting that the mix of fear and adrenaline that comes with the job is also an addictive drug as well.

As such, she draws terrific performances from her three main players, with Renner in particular stepping up to leading man status in superlative fashion after promising supporting performances in 28 Weeks Later and The Assassination of Jesse James.

There’s strong support, too, from the likes of Guy Pearce, David Morse and even Ralph Fiennes in a blink and you may miss him cameo.

The overall excellence of the film is felt in every quarter, too, whether its the authenticity of the locations (Bigelow shot in Jordan, just across the border from Iraq), or the explosions themselves, which are breathtakingly realised (sometimes in slow-mo).

Bigelow eschews the typical Hollywood approach to pyrotechnics and opts for realism, providing viewers with a jaw-dropping insight into the real power and brutality of an exploding bomb.

The end result is a film that grabs your attention from the word go and refuses to loosen its grip throughout. It’s a tour-de-force from everyone concerned – a harrowing, no-nonsense look at front-line Iraq that really should not be missed.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 10mins
UK Release Date: August 28, 2009