The Hurt Locker could have been a Western. But instead it's a war drama set in 2004 Iraq that follows an elite bomb disposal team working amidst the violent conflict in that country. The OK Corral is replaced by the dry, dusty streets and shady back alleys of Baghdad. Instead of exciting showdowns at high noon with six shooters, the team that answers bomb disposal calls like a busy fire-fighting unit must face powerful IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) with 300-foot kill zones. The same he-man bravado and moral muscle we're used to getting from our westerns, just a different setting. {googleads}

The Hurt Locker could also have been a horror movie... with insurgents standing in as the crazed hockey mask-wearing killers, ready to murder their unsuspecting victims at every corner. The tension is certainly as intense as that in any horror movie in recent memory. Many have said that war is the closest thing to a true-life horror movie, but few filmmakers have been successful in their attempts to transport that horror from battlefield to big screen. Kathryn Bigelow being an exception.

She's a master at illustrating the dangers of war. Her well-received K:19 The Widowmaker was a gripping account of a valiant Soviet naval crew who risked their lives to narrowly avert a deadly disaster aboard their nuclear submarine. With her The Hurt Locker, she not only ratchets up the style factor, giving the film a disturbing yet beautiful texture (some scenes are as memorable and iconic as those in Apocalypse Now), but she also manages to jangle our nerves for the entire 130 minutes with an extremely visceral depiction of what men do under combat stress conditions.

The Hurt LockerThe film doesn't really have a conventional plot, but the story is built around the last 38 days the three men in the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) squad have remaining in their Iraq rotation. Spc. Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), just a kid but beginning to crack under the pressure, and the sensible Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), are simply trying to avoid the titular place that represents â"ultimate pain." They're both getting over the recent loss of a teammate to what seems like total randomness as to who lives and who dies. The new replacement, Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) is a wild cowboy of sorts (as pegged by his superior officers), who prefers to detonate devices without his protective suit. â"If I'm gonna die... I wanna die comfortable," quips the cocksure sergeant. To his teammates, James's recklessness represents a danger to their own well-being. They begin to wonder which is a greater threat, the bomb on the ground or the man in the bomb suit. But Bigelow doesn't allow us to form any judgments. Sgt. James is good at what he does, and what he does makes his fellow soldiers safer. To us, that's all that matters.

One particularly unique aspect of The Hurt Locker that sets it apart from many of these Iraq and Afghanistan war films of late is that we're never really persuaded to pick a side in the conflict. Though the story by Mark Boal comes from his experiences as a journalist embedded with an Army bomb squad in Iraq, it could have taken place at any time in history, anywhere in the world. The purpose of our presence in Iraq is never used for an emotional push, nor does the lack of an attachment to any particular character ever really matter. They're all just soldiers hoping to get out alive and we the audience don't want to see them get blown up. Our natural inclination to care about other humans gives us a strong emotional attachment to the film.

Though Bigelow does ask some difficult questions about the cost of heroism and what the experience of war does to a soldier, the message never comes across as burdensome or heavy-handed. The film's focus is narrowed to dramatizing the dangerous work of the EOD squads, and the film does that exceptionally well.

As the credits begin to roll, we slowly tear our fingers from the armrests, hoping no one notices the damage to the upholstery. Horror, western, psychological thriller, or war drama... pick a genre. The Hurt Locker is one of the most intense and thrilling representatives from any genre to come down the pike in quite some time.



Blu-ray Details:

The Blu-Ray release is disappointing as there are only a minimum of extra features for such a monumental film.

Screen Formats: 1.78:1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish English SDH, Spanish (less)

Language and Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1.



  • Feature-length commentary track with Director Kathryn Bigelow and Writer Mark Boal is interesting as it features the real-life stories of veterans that inspired the story. They also talk heavily of the issues with shooting in the Middle East and how the cast prepared for their roles. It's worth listening to, but is delivered in a very unemotional way making it a challenge to the casual fan.


  • The Hurt Locker: Behind the Scenes (1080i, 12:36) is a very basic featurette that has cast and crew speaking about the politics of war, the motivation and themes of the story, Bigelow's style and Ackroyd's cinematography and more.

Photo Galleries - Image Gallery with an optional Q&A session recorded at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London (1080p, 23:30)

Number of Discs: 1 50GB Blu-ray Disc with Keepcase Packaging