The Hurt Locker (15)

Film

War films

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Aug 25 2009

Click here to read an interview with director Bigelow

Best known for 1991’s ‘Point Break’, Kathryn Bigelow is back in the frame with one of the better films about the US Army in Iraq – and one of the few not to send American audiences running for the hills. Written and co-produced by war reporter Mark Boal (who worked on Paul Haggis’s ‘In the Valley of Elah’), Bigelow’s film combines an expert management of tension with a sensitive and journalistic attention to detail: she has one eye on the truth and the other on the multiplex, and, if you can forgive her the odd sentimental or sensational flourish, this makes for an unusual mix of the thrilling and the sobering.

The film’s focus is a bomb disposal squad in Baghdad in 2004 and the 38-day rotation of Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner, pictured), an expert in defusing devices and a mouthy renegade whom you could view as either ‘hot shit’, as one superior calls him, or deserving of a sock in the jaw, as one of his peers prefers. Bigelow builds suspense and empathy by sticking closely to this small band through several episodes – including one superbly executed desert gunfight – and allowing us to experience events as they unfold for the soldiers.

The photography from ‘United 93’ DoP and regular Ken Loach collaborator Barry Ackroyd lends a frenetic immediacy to proceedings, while the use of Amman as Baghdad lends context and reality to a claustrophobic story. Bigelow is more interested in psychology than politics, but she shows just enough awareness of how the behaviour of soliders can fuel retaliation and even includes one direct suggestion that the US Army can and does choose to disregard the welfare of civilians. Most encouragingly, the film offers a fine distinction between heroism and heroics.

Click here to read an interview with director Bigelow
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Aug 28, 2009

Duration:

131 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.7 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:9
  • 4 star:3
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  • 2 star:5
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LiveReviews|28
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Robert Thornton

Can’t understand why this film got an Oscar, must have been political. Other than seeing bomb disposal there was little else that was new, many of the scenes were in “Jarhead� like coming across the “enemy� in the desert, sniping with your buddy as telescopic look out, counting days to go. I would like to get a military critic to review all recent American war films as do all soldiers react in a totally uncontrolled manner like 6 soldiers firing aimlessly together at a target, disobedience to orders, shouting in English at an Arab who can’t speak English. What was the scene about when the hero bomb disposer decided to seek out the person who detonated the truck as he guessed it wasn’t a suicide bomber who did it. Other than getting his buddy killed what did he expect to find? Why did “Beckham� have a bomb inside him, was this to be detonated by someone. I could go on as I would have expected this Oscar winning to be much more credible.

tewkewl

to those of you who are saying that they were not SAS. you guys don't know jack. The SAS, Delta, DevGru, were charged with seeking out and capturing terrorist big shots. remember the deck of most wanted cards? Contractors were not tasked to get them. The big giveaway is the fact that they call in for air support. Contractors don't call in for military air support. Soldiers can get bonuses for capturing hotshots too. This movie was made by someone who is used to being a hollywood liberal... for an audience with know knowledge of the military. An SAS team being pinned down by Hajis from a KNOWN sniper position? I'm sorry this is not realistic. Even more so, they get saved by a sniping EOD tech? give me a break. Sure the main Character was a ranger, so it's believable he went to sniper school, but Sanborne sniping? highly unrealistic. but the libs watching this movie have no idea. they just think "pow pow.. guns shooting... army men... all the same". And 3 EOD guys running around by themselves? Unsupported? I'm sorry, the EOD guys don't come in until the area is secured and cordoned off. And the main tech going around without procedures or not using the BOT when they have it? totally absurd. I wanted to like this movie. But that SAS scene just pushed it over the top. This is liberal hollywood fiction, not a war movie. For accurate depictions, watch blackhawk down (somalia), saving private ryan (ww2), taegukki: the brotherhood of war (korean war), hamburger hill (vietham). this movie is a disgrace.

H

I absolutely agree with NJW. I was expecting big things from The Hurt Locker but, having seen Generation Kill, it pales miserably in comparison. OK, we only spend a couple of hours with the guys in this film compared to seven or so with the tv series lot, but Gen.Kill is the first time I've ever understood why anyone would want to join the Marines. The authenticity of the show (writing, direction, dilemmas, language, camaraderie, frustration, politics) is insightful, innovative and outstandingly executed. Apart from one or two exceptional moments in The Hurt Locker (the desert shoot-out sniper part in particular), I really can't say the same for it. Watch Generation Kill!!

johan

Great, suspenseful film. They're not taking on the 'fight' for the SAS - they're bounty hunters, and they US guys are just making sure they get out alive. Thought it was interesting and harrowing.

Stephanie

Watched it last night and found it totally absorbing and very tense. A point of order though... The scene with the 'SAS'. They were in fact not the SAS but mercenaries/contractors. The giveaway is the line were Ralph Fiennes talks about the bounty he's going to get for the two guys they've captured! But I agree it was still a little irritating to see them rescued by the Americans.

Stephanie

Watched it last night and found it totally absorbing and very tense. A point of order though... The scene with the 'SAS'. They were in fact not the SAS but mercenaries/contractors. The giveaway is the line were Ralph Fiennes talks about the bounty he's going to get for the two guys they've captured! But I agree it was still a little irritating to see them rescued by the Americans.

NJW

I really didn't think this film was very reaslistic - backed up my my other half who was a bomb disposal engineer - most of the 'bomb action' seemed unrealistic to him - and i thought the lead character was just far to reckless - would he really be allowed to get away with that behavour?? We much prefer Generation Kill as a true reflection of life as a soldier in Iraq, the subtleties, lack of direction, language - all seem spot on to the old man!

trickydicky

Good to see its Oscar nominations have warranted this excellent film being shown again in the West End. Highly, highly recommended. Worth seeing on the big screen. I saw it twice back in autumn 2009.

trickydicky

Good to see its Oscar nominations have warranted this excellent film being shown again in the West End. Highly, highly recommended. Worth seeing on the big screen. I saw it twice back in autumn 2009.

JD

This is the only film about war I have seen where I FINALLY understand why people join the army. Brilliant.

JD

This is the only film about war I have seen where I FINALLY understand why people join the army. Brilliant.

usman khawaja

----HUMAN CONDITION DESCRIBED BY A HARROWING HANDHELD WEBCAM----------- Katheine BIGELOW opens her docu -drama about the fatalistic and miserable Iraq war with a rather high handed quote which dictates mankind's addiction to A drug called war ,yet there is no mention that addiction is an affliction and can be cured in instances where the mind is stronger than body . this though is a portrayal of mutilated bodies ,evaporating mortal living forms in sand which smokes and swirls around mists of blood and flesh that have littered iraq now for over 6 long years ,which is imbued with a certain ugly poetic quotient ,amongst explosives and gunfights staged in the ramshackle filthy slums of Baghdad as an ace team of american servicemen ,PLAYED BY a trio of bomb defuser team -james ,sanborn and cambridge battle the randomly placed IEDS ,on roadsides ,abandoned ruins and litter heaps ,while the iraqi civilians silently and impassively observe from their rooftops . Guy Pearce makes a brief cameo in the opening sequence as it ends in tragic detail and than the narrative follows through in a well edited -handheld camera technique ,where we are taken through the harrowing experiences of an american team . as they tackle the bombs ,we also become implicitly aware of the flaws where the leader wants to manually disarm IEDS [INTRA EXPLOSIVE DEVICES ],though it is policy to let the robot perform that task ,this obviously makes turgid drama but it is imprecise too and the security measures or protocols are butchered at times as ordinary taxi drivers drive into the middle of forays in intense barricades . At times this is inadvertently absurd and at times you see the iraqis watching as zombies while the americans expose themselves like sitting ducks,it is never asserted whether the civilians are hostile or friendly or what they might deem of this circus in their backyards and doorsteps . One gesture of friendship to Sanborn is rudely snubbed by the Afro-american who tells the Iraqi man to fuck off , but James is rather diffident as he befriends a young guy who is allowed in the base to sell pirated dvds and play ball ,and is called Beckham which is the only lighter aspect of this grim account . soon they are off into a patrol in the desert in shimmering golden sand dunes with panoramic shots and first encounter a british patrol in plainclothes ,where Ralph Fiennes makes his special appearance and vanishes in the blink of an eye as an iraqi insurgent ambush ensues ,which is again staged with flaws as the iraqis have no strategic sense compared to their entrapped american counterparts who shoot them down like pigeons . Bigelow has tried her level best to devise an accurate account of a war which is not conventional neither patriotic but a mercenary misadventure ,but she is no KUBRICK ,and this is no FULL METAL JACKET ,where a harmonious balanced account of all the characters can be rendered in exquisite emotional and visual wizardry . she meanders as she sends her leading man unnecessarily on a nocturnal adventure in the middle of nowhere in a hostile metropolis alone as he breaks into an iraqi house against all rules in search of the murderers who have killed his soccer buddy . Yet she than stages a powerful sequence which redeems her and the movie where a hapless iraqi citizen appears in a public square with a bomb soldered on him begging to be salvaged ,while the americans bicker as to whether he ought to be terminated or aided ,as the scene progresses you almost step into the shoes and soul of this iraqi man chanting the quran as he awaits his irrevocable fate and the tragedy that is iraq is reverberatingly captured in this haunting echo as he recites the KALMA . this is rather an uneven movie ,very well acted and edited ,shot with precision in a neo-real mode with vicarious techniques where a controversial war and it's most vicious aspect of suicide and roadside bombs are explored in a sporadically affective sum of fears . The fact remains that the portrayal of James and Sanborn as the two leads is also haunted by their own scepticism and frustration as they mock wrestle in their quarters and james loses control in a well directed sequence where he physically and verbally abuses his peer. This is a true revelation of the ugly emotions evoked by war and one wishes miss Bigelow had dwelled more on this psychological aspect than the toys and devices that her camera follows while briefly lingering on the expressionless iraqi populace . In one sequence a senior american officer fecilitates james on his skills, and demands imperiously to know the quantity of bombs he has tackled and how he has managed to survive . The reply in so many words sums up the net affect -i cannot remember truly the number but the best way to defuse them is 'the safe way' . I wish that miss Bigelow had not followed the 'safe' route of making a comfortable movie about a crucial subject and delved into some unknown territory in her iraqi expedition to visit and explore a place colloquially referred by the yanks as the 'sandbox' ,where human blood and life are cheaper than the sand itself ,which is partially and equivocally explored here from a 'hollywood perspective' without describing the 'human condition' in it's vast scope, or it's perilous status in contemporary global milieu , showcasing style over content in a pretentious artistic movie to appeal to critics and their whims . 7/10

Rogue

Couldn't disagree more with the other reviewers that characterisation was weak. The interplay between James and Sanborn was excellent, and even the few minutes you get at the beginning with Sanborn and Thompson tells you a lot about the characters involved. The film was relentlessly suspenseful and felt like a true representation of the horror of desert warfare, instead of a Hollywood-ised shoot em up where the Americans simply blast their way through everything with a pulse before patting themselves on the back at the end, This is not about making a political statement (although it does contain elements of this, of course) but about the individuals involved in what our governments created. Well performed, especially by Renner, a great script and superbly shot. A thinking man's war film, and not to be missed.

Rogue

Couldn't disagree more with the other reviewers that characterisation was weak. The interplay between James and Sanborn was excellent, and even the few minutes you get at the beginning with Sanborn and Thompson tells you a lot about the characters involved. The film was relentlessly suspenseful and felt like a true representation of the horror of desert warfare, instead of a Hollywood-ised shoot em up where the Americans simply blast their way through everything with a pulse before patting themselves on the back at the end, This is not about making a political statement (although it does contain elements of this, of course) but about the individuals involved in what our governments created. Well performed, especially by Renner, a great script and superbly shot. A thinking man's war film, and not to be missed.

Polly Ellen

I'm with fb on this I thought it was poor. Action ok, occasionally some real suspense - as you'd expect with bomb disposal. But characterisation weak, scripting occasionally truly terrible "I haven't got a son. I'd like a little boy. How did you do it?". Desert shootout has totally unconvincing mockney Brits who get shot much more easily than the US boys. And then they spend an age watching a building that's clearly empty. Yeah yeah. Hollywood can do so much better.

fb

I think I must've watched a different film entirely to the other reviewers! THL reminded me of gymnasts doing the floor exercise: lots of fannying about in the corners before the rolling somersaults come flying. The set-pieces are very good (though the desert shootout was spoiled by Ralph Fiennes's usual plywood performance) but I found little else to engage. The characters didn't inspire empathy and the bit with the 'Beckham' kid was sentimentally out of place. The film would've been much improved if the tone had been more blackly comic (like 'Buffalo Soldiers') while retaining a sharper political edge. I'm glad that people are watching a film about the war in Iraq; it's just a pity that THL comprises thrills and suspense and not much else.

Andy S

Absolutely brilliant, a gripping and tense masterpiece with stunning performances. Great cameos too, but the real star is Jeremy Renner. See this even if you're not a big War Movie fan...oh, and its NOT 2hrs 40 mins, its 2hrs 10 mins, FYI!! :-)

Andy S

Absolutely brilliant, a gripping and tense masterpiece with stunning performances. Great cameos too, but the real star is Jeremy Renner. See this even if you're not a big War Movie fan...oh, and its NOT 2hrs 40 mins, its 2hrs 10 mins, FYI!! :-)

GS

Ths is an excelllent film.It takes you by the scruff f the neck and assaults your senses so you see and feel what these soldiers go through.

GS

Ths is an excelllent film.It takes you by the scruff f the neck and assaults your senses so you see and feel what these soldiers go through.

Marek

This is a fine, fine film. It concentrates on the war itself, not on any political or social sideshows. I sat through it transfixed to the screen. Only afterwards did I find out that it was 2 hours and 40 minutes long. A good film will fill the time. One aspect of the film is very engrossing - the tension/suspense. It is first class. Peoples lives are in danger almost every minute, and the direction together with all the tension is very well done.. I recommend this film highly.

Marek

This is a fine, fine film. It concentrates on the war itself, not on any political or social sideshows. I sat through it transfixed to the screen. Only afterwards did I find out that it was 2 hours and 40 minutes long. A good film will fill the time. One aspect of the film is very engrossing - the tension/suspense. It is first class. Peoples lives are in danger almost every minute, and the direction together with all the tension is very well done.. I recommend this film highly.

csfulham

A fantastic film - although 2hrs 40 you never feel bored nor distracted - the tension keeps you going throughout. An excellent and hopefully award-winning effort from Bigelow, carried by a brilliant cast of relative unknowns (with the exception of a Fiennes cameo which plays excellently) . One definitely for the collection when it's out on DVD.

csfulham

A fantastic film - although 2hrs 40 you never feel bored nor distracted - the tension keeps you going throughout. An excellent and hopefully award-winning effort from Bigelow, carried by a brilliant cast of relative unknowns (with the exception of a Fiennes cameo which plays excellently) . One definitely for the collection when it's out on DVD.

Rohne Hill

An IED of a film if you will. Lean, mean, comprised of multiple episodic parts, some old and some new, nothing too flashy or polished but deadly efficient. Bigelow deserves credit for not only for securing two effective "unknowns" as the leads but also the manner in which she transfers the tension, relaying it cumatively from one episode to the next without ever making it actually feel episodic. Although I've appreciated her very early work, I've never counted myself as a fan, but her jaunt in the wilderness as really paid off here. Personally this is her finest hour or two. The ending of an astronaut plodding off into a world of quite possible death ranks up there with the best.