At this year’s Oscars Kathryn Bigelow became the first female director to be given a gong — for her film Hurt Locker. It was a worthy winner in a crop of “Iraq war flicks”, but it is not political film.
Hurt Locker follows an Army Bomb Squad unit during their last six weeks on tour in Iraq. The film begins with the death of their old commander, Sergeant Thompson (Guy Pearce), and the arrival of their new boss, Staff Sergeant Will James. The main plot follows the tension that arises between James and his crew, Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), over James’ cavalier attitude, and seemingly suicidal mindset.
Visually, Hurt Locker is very good, with Bigelow getting some great shots, including the one used in all of the trailers — of Staff Sergeant James running away from an explosion. Some of the wide countryside shots, filmed in Jordan, are also excellent, and both close-up and far-out shots of the squad at work make you feel the pressurised situation the soldiers were in.
But the plot itself isn’t greatly interesting, displaying themes in no way unique to Hurt Locker. The story’s grip comes from the characters who are convincing. You can empathise with the behaviour and emotions on display. The film makes no political comments at all, neither on the broader context of the conflict, nor on issues such as equipment shortages or command failings. This may well be because it is an American film, and because it is quite tightly focussed upon the bomb disposal aspect.
Hurt Locker is definitely worth watching if only to be carried along the ride and to enjoy the tense “action” sequences.