Review: ‘The Hurt Locker’

Beautifully shot, well acted, and completely unfocused to the point of, well, what was the point?

In 2004 post-invasion Iraq, US Army Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) takes over as the new team leader of an EOD unit (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) with Bravo Company, due to rotate out in thirty-eight days. Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) are assigned to protect James while he attempts to locate and disarm IEDs (improvised explosive devices.) James inherited the job when the previous bomb tech was killed by a remote detonation, but what’s worse is that James seems to prefer approaching suspected IEDs himself rather than using a bomb disposal robot. His teammates are left wondering: is he that good, that reckless, or just has a death wish?

I am happy to say I am already familiar with director Kathryn Bigelow’s body of work, from reworked vampire horror (Near Dark) to edgy techno thrillers (Strange Days.) What I am left wondering with The Hurt Locker is, what were we meant to take away from this? The main character has so many layers and dimensions that you can’t say he wasn’t interesting, but the entire point behind his actions doesn’t seem to be the point of the film. Since nothing else really stands out either, what we’re left with is a fictional documentary-style film that ends as it begins with men occasionally crying for awards contention.

Where The Hurt Locker does succeed is in its setting. Strictly from a documentary point of view, Bigelow shows how deadly and thankless the job of investigating and disposing of improvised explosive devices is. With combatants indistinguishable from civilians and every street a maze of unseen dangers, that anyone would want to do this job seems unlikely and its retirement plan a foregone conclusion. The opening scene of the movie hints at how most of these techs will end up, so the tension of every new mission is ramped up just by James putting on his concussion suit. Unfortunately, every scene between these scenes, the exposition that tells us that these men are more than their jobs or to provide purpose to James’s seemingly foolish behavior, just can’t compete and fall very flat.

Is war hell? Check. Are the characters being all that they can be? Check. But is this pro-war or anti-war? Pro-family or anti-family? Why not “You don’t have to be insane to be a bomb tech, but it sure helps?” The film may as well be voiced over by Morgan Freeman showing actual footage and soldiers instead of actors for all the good it does the film. Sadly, this is one of those movies I have to throw my fellow supporting critics under the bus for, an unspecifically overwrought production that fools viewers into thinking, “Wow… I just can’t wrap my head around what it all means, so it must be genius.” That said, here’s your alternative conclusion: don’t be fooled.

(a one and a half skull recommendation out of four)


  1. +1 totally agree. I would imagine any actually soldier would say this stuff is about 99% fiction. Bomb tech’s like that would not last more than a few days. Also, portraying the bombers as incompetents is clearly far off from reality.


  2. Thank you… I thought I was mentally challenged for not understanding why this movie is a clear Oscar winner but I’m glad there’s someone else in the universe that doesn’t get it either. It’s honestly been a growing trend for movies that have ambiguous and complicated plots to win Oscars… Let’s leave every angle open to interpretation when it comes to the plot and character analysis, it’ll surely be a hit!


  3. ?€?Wow?€¦ I just can?€™t wrap my head around what it all means, so it must be genius.?€?

    That happens a lot of the time, especially in pretentious circles, but who’s to say that a film isn’t genius for other reasons, such as suspense, psychological study, visceral sensations, photography, lighting, etc. etc. etc? The list could go on. I felt that the film was quite simplistic in what it was trying to achieve, and I also felt that it did it exceptionally well. It must be genius.


  4. I totally agree with this review and DO NOT understand why it has a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Anyone who has served in the military will probably agree that the dialogue between military personnel was ridiculous and cliche (especially the full-bird Colonel who asks him how many bombs he has diffused). I also agree that the movie didn’t know which direction it was going. It started out seeming a bit anti-war, then was “hooah! pro-war” and then finally seemed to be nothing more than to document a few fictitious days spent in the desert with the “hollywood superman uber-Ranger EOD soldier” who does his own thing (which any military member would tell you is crap).


  5. A war movie that lacks meaning…..WTF?? how did this happen? The conflict, internal and external completely missed the target. The was not a complete movie but a sequence of scenes cut together without a central meaning and lacking a fluid story arc. I understand shaking a camera makes up for the forced tension and brings us into the slow action but if it doesn’t stop shaking and moving then the action flat lines. Also the scene when he runs off to the dead kids house makes no sense apart from letting us know what we already know…that he is crazy as a cut cat…well dah its a war movie. I only started to care about the main character when i saw him with his family, HUGE editing blunder keeping that till the end. I am Unimpressed and It’s not even close to other Oscar winners like Platoon.


  6. Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. Glad to see my husband and I are not alone. When the DVD ended, we both looked at each other as if to say, “That was it?” Hmmm. The last comment had it dead on — shaking camera? documentary style? woman director? Genius, sheer genius. Uh, I mean, it has to be, right?


  7. And another ditto here. Netflixed it last night and my wife fell asleep right around the time that James took his cab ride into town. I didn’t bother waking her up. Then, this morning, I have to admit I had a little bit of trouble telling her what happened for the rest of the movie–it just wasn’t that impactful or memorable. I guess the nicest thing I could say is that it was an OK action movie…but as a war movie? Flat as a pancake.

    If this is “better” than Avatar, I’m glad I haven’t wasted my money on that undoubtedly overhyped POC, and I probably won’t even waste a Netflix pick on it.


  8. Finally someone who didn’t jump on the Hurt Locker band wagon. This movie sucked!! It is a slap in the face to Saving Private Ryan, We Were Soldiers, Platoon and many others to call this “one of the greatest war movies of all time”. Give me a break!


  9. While watching the first fifteen minutes of this movie i thought ” Wow, this is looking promising “. But then it went rapidly downhill, by the halfway point i no longer cared about the main characters. There was just no fluidity to the storyline, it was scattered all over the place. Overall i feel robbed of my two hours of life i could have spent watching flies fuck. At least i would of been entertained.


  10. What all you people are missing is that The Hurt Locker’s “scattered” storyline and lack of obvious purpose are exactly what makes it the defining film for modern warfare in the Middle East. We went there under ambiguous (if not false) pretenses, we’re still there without knowing exactly why, and we don’t know if, when, or how it’ll end. This uncertainty is personified in the main character. All the audience can do is watch, and formulate their own message to take away from it, which in my opinion makes it a superb picture. For anyone who’s actually been out there and done the job, this film cuts straight to the core.


  11. To clarify, Travis: you’re saying that the point *IS* its pointlessness, and that makes it somehow superior to every other 2009 film?

    By that logic, if I made a ninety-minute film of a plain white wall and called it “Imagination” (because it’s whatever you want it to be), I’d also have a contender for the best film of the year.


  12. I stumbled upon it a Netflix and felt compelled to spend one dollar because it was mentioned as Oscar certainty. I wasted a dollar. My wife and I didn’t get it?€¦ Or, was the end of the movie cut off this copy? In the beginning when the wheel fell off the wagon, why not just let the robot drag the broken wagon back for repair. Robots are meant to save human life, not human life to save a wagon. Why was the robot not used for the other operations?… Then the guys are driving through the wilderness desert for no reason, stumble across a group of people wandering about, approach them at close range for no reason, are totally surprised they are good guys, when suddenly some of the group members are shot, then all of the good guys shoot off all of their ammunition into the open desert, can’t figure out where the receiving fire is coming from, one of the geniuses says it “might be coming from that building”, (really?)(of course no one saw the building before and was not suspicious of it.. it just materialized in the middle of the desert), now they are scurrying to use their last couple rounds of precious ammunition (that they just shot all over the place at the wide open desert) to kill the one or two guys in the previously invisible building. Avitar has less fiction.


  13. I found my way here searching for why people thought this was a good movie, because it really isn’t.

    The most compelling portions seemed more like a couple side-missions in a first-person shooter video game. Was it filmed well? Absolutely yes. Are there any other redeeming factors to this flick? No.

    But then what are we supposed to make of a guy who cares more about an ambiguous Iraqi kid than his own son? The only time I empathized with the faux-reckless jerk was when he was stuck in the cereal aisle not knowing which brand to get… Kinda the whole movie, if you ask me.


  14. Why does a movie have to be pro-war or anti-war? I do not completely understand the criticism. Why cant a movie simply be about a war without a stance because war is a prevalent part of life. The cast of characters had people who could be described as pro or anti but the filmaker didnt choose to be particularly sympathetic towards either and bravo to that. Choosing a side alienates viewers and if it is pro war is propaganda and anti-war is anti-bush blah blah blah. The reality is these are all volunteer soldiers. You dont have the Vietnam draft era soldiers who are easily painted as anti-war because they could literally be anti-war. This isnt Vietnam and this isnt WWII. I found the way that the movie depicted the enemy as impossible to separate from civilians as one of the movies resounding strengths. Iraq is a different war from all others and I came away feeling like this is the defining Iraqi war movie. It didnt get into why we were there but showed the difficulty that soldiers have fighting this war and why perhaps it can even be called impossible to win. Sure we could take out the entire nation but that isnt the goal. The sheer terror of having civilians as possible enemies and not being able to discern the two meanwhile waiting to fire until you can identify the enemy moved me.

    I unlike most of you liked this movie and feel that most of you in your search for meaning or message missed a good movie. If it wasnt about war would you be asking the same questions/feeling? If so perhaps you have a bias from the get go. I do now know but many great movies and stories have points without necessarily having messages. I remember reading Catcher in the Rye and wondering what is the point as a teenager but later reading it and knowing that by looking for a point I missed a great book.


  15. Well, maybe this movie is so acclaimed because there is an ongoing effort by mass media to promote the army. And the other candidate to ‘best film’ is also about soldiers, the fact that it is a bit critical about imperialism is just anecdotical IMO. Don’t forget War is the biggest industry today, accounting for 2/3 of the USA economy. And growing!


  16. ahh yes…please, keep the witless postings coming guys. They are always good for a few laughs at your expense, esp u kato 🙂


  17. And here I’d thought I’d gone crazy. Brilliant review, i can’t believe the accolades this movie is getting simply because it looked intelligent.


  18. All the above reviewers whine “what’s point” without knowing that is precisely the point of the movie: what’s the point of the war? The most absord war in human history. The soldiers are good soldiers, sacrifying their lives, but don’t know why they are doing it. Every single Iraqi on the street is a potential enemy and yet no one can tell why they want to bomb everyone else. The movie vividly reveals one of the most ugly of modern human history. No glory, no faith, no justice, no nothing. Just a stupid, meaningless, unjustifiable war that has costed dearly to fight but leads to no end.


  19. Looking for a point is fruitless, etc, etc. Look, this is not so much a movie as a film. And most importantly, FILM IS A VISUAL MEDIUM. The only direct reference to a visual moment so far was to the cereal boxes, and I think a lot of people are missing the narrative that was implanted in Renners character because theyre looking for an endless stream of obvious plot disseminating dialogue. This is not how film as an art should be entertained (even if, sadly, the Academy Awards believe it is). If you watched an Ingmar Bergman film, Citizen Kane, or even No Country for Old Men without seeing the metaphorical narrative composed by images, you missed everything the director made. So I recommend watching the film again. Think of every frame as a piece of a collective work, everything inside the frame, from slow motion explosions to close ups of Renners pimpled face (this film does lack a lot of recurring motifs, so keep thinking about the sequence). Understanding the film might come from several viewings.

    Also important in this same vein of viewing, Up in the Air. This was an actual film, maybe much more in the line of Kubrick than Jason Reitmann is credited. Look for motifs, visual symbols, and the possibility for a metanarrative.


  20. I enjoyed both No Country for Old Men and Up in the Air. Both films follow a narrative structure while still allowing the audience to make up their minds. The words hero and villain are not synonimous with antagonist and protagonist, so it isnt that. The are enough of examples of War! What is it good for? without championing this as the latest proof of futility. That said, if there was a clear enemy and the evil US was a conquering nation, dont you think the war might have decidedly over a bit sooner? Hint: an earth-shattering kaboom.


  21. Just saw this movie and I really cant believe how bad it was. I lost count of the number of cliches in the movie. Seriously…did the director miss a single war movie cliche? From the soldier befriending the local hussling kid to the batsh*t nuts colonel who kills prisonors. She also didnt seem to know what to do with anyone other than her chosen three characters. While the camera follows our three heros, everyone else just seems to either stand around doing nothing or run around headless. You would think that our three bomb disposal guys are working in a total vacuum. James walks to the bomb while all the local marines just take a smoke break and let a speeding car run through their check point. Then James tells the driver of the potentially bomb carrying car to back up right into the midst of all the marines. Gee…there is a good idea. Lets surround this possible suicide bomber with as many potential US targets as possible? May make for a dramatic stand off but makes zero sense. In another scene our three intrepid heros have a sniper stand off in the desert while two highly trained SAS specialists just stand there doing nothing. Guess she couldnt figure out what to do with them so just asked them to stand by the side for a moment while she focussed on the bonding of our two focal characters. For me that whole sniper dual just summed up the crap this movie was. Made no sense at all, was totally unrealistic, and just went to show the lack of of the directors knowledge, and the lengths to which she would twist reality so as to make things more exciting.


  22. Claytos, I appreciate where youre coming from, but you sound like you are quoting from a college book on Filmmaking 101. I dont need obvious plot disseminating dialogue to appreciate a movie, as you imply to the negative critics. It wasnt the plot or the fact that it didnt make a point that bothered me about it, it was the many different levels of What? that I went through. In the first 5 minutes when the first EOD Soldier was blown up, I was like Uh oh, this looks like another Hollywood political statement by way of an anti-war-look-at-our-Soldiers-dying-for-a-pointless-conflict film, complete with faulty military equipment (robot). THAT gave way later to feeling as if I was was watching Army promotional propaganda on the glamours of joining the Army and becoming EOD (just like Kato said earlier, and I was happy to see someone else say it). On top of that was the cliche-riddled one-liners and unrealistic dialogue between the characters, especially between the military ranks. I still cringe when I think about the scene with the Colonel asking the Soldier how many bombs he has diffused, in that horrible, pseudo Apocalypse Now style of dialogue, followed by the implication that the Soldier may have violated a direct order had he not eventually answered the question. Obviously the film had some great moments, and I saw those as well as the bad, but sometimes I felt like the movie couldnt commit to what it wanted to be…sometimes I felt like I was watching Pearl Harbor filmed in shaky-camera documentary style, and other times I felt like I was watching a pretty decent movie, if it just wouldnt have been so all over the place as many critics have said already.


  23. I agree with Claytos, but maybe because I myself come from a graphic design background. I love these kind of details and appreciate a movie that can tell a story through more than dialogue and morgan freeman narative.

    Overall I have to disagree with your review but I do see your points.


  24. How does it feel to get your credibility completely taken away?

    A movie that wins an oscar for best picture CLEARLY deserves more than 1.5 skulls. This is the last time I will look to this website for movie-watching advice…


  25. LOL, just because a film wins an oscar doesn’t mean it deserves more than 1.5 skulls. George Bush won 2 elections, does that mean he deserved to be president? The answer: not with me.

    The Hurt Locker was an intense movie but not all that original. There were several episodes in the film that did not make sense. Yes, war does not make sense. Fire fights are confused events. But I am talking about afterwords. The main character clearly has a death wish and no regard for his two charges. They never say anything to anybody about this guy clearly putting them in the line of fire for no reason. Running off into the darkness without telling any other squad? That is stupid and would probably be reprimanded.

    All in all, the movie seemed a lot like “All’s Quiet on the Western Front”, a collage of events rather than somebody’s actual experiences.

    Anyway, to each his own. I did not like the movie. There were some good sequences, but nothing good enough to make it the best movie of the year. I think it won because it was a war movie during wartime. Those movies often win over the competition. Let’s see what everyone says ten years from now.


  26. I thought one meaning was a literal analogy war and drugs. Maybe I’m being superficial, but the main character returned from his tour and seemed to feel like something was missing, something he wanted so badly that he didn’t care about the risks, and, as I understood, returned to the war to fill that gap.

    Suppose defusing bombs for this guy is is like an addict taking pills. At first, taking a pill (defusing a bomb) will make a person get high, which gives them some sensation they like (rush of adrenaline or feeling of accomplishment at having disarmed a bomb), but the sensation doesn’t last in either situation and the person comes back down.

    Eventually, after some amount of up and down cycles, the sensation is less pleasurable, but it becomes more of a matter of something the person feels like they need, so that when they do not have it they feel that it’s missing and will do whatever they can to get it back. An addict may do dangerous or bad things to get it more pills whereas the character here may re-enlist, go back to Iraq to get more bombs to defuse, also certainly dangerous, and quite possibly “bad” in the eyes of a Hollywood director, I don’t really know the director’s politics.

    Given that the opening quote with “war is a drug” was from Chris Hedges in a 2002 book “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning,” I assumed the film was also in part meant to mirror some of Hedges’ arguments about war being a like a drug for societies, that people at home are energized/united at the start of a war which most of them consider justified, followed by an initial high of the feeling that their country is nobly getting rid of the bad guys. But this high tapers off as the war drags on, more people question the purpose of the war, and more soldiers and civilians are killed, eventually leading to a strong distaste for war. He argues that society’s memory fades, and eventually becomes more willing to wage war, and it becomes an endless cycle (like the cycle of addiction for a drug addict).

    I don’t necessarily agree with all of this, but that’s what I thought were a couple of the intended messages. The first one I thought was conveyed pretty well by the movie. The second one, well, maybe they just liked the quote, but I see some semblance of the analogy between the first message and this second one.


  27. thank god people agree with me..
    the fact that this movie was even nominated for best picture is an absolute joke..
    the movie was basically a documentary but without a voice over.. so u had no idea wat u were actually sposed to be watching..
    if u watched this movie on mute ud get just as much out of it..
    actually itd probs be better coz u wouldnt have to put up with the corny dialogue
    complete waste of time..
    would rather watch the hannah montana movie than sit through this a second time


  28. Thank god for someone with taste. The movie was lightweight hollywood nonsense. I don’t understand how someone can attach to or relate to a character that is clearly RIDICULOUS. Right from the start Renner goes off on his own and disables those bombs w/o any concern for his life – and then he went to the craft service table and grabbed a protein bar and some smart water. Then the sargent punches him in the face for not obeying orders and doesn’t flinch – and then he goes to his trailer for a shiatsu message. This movie is as hollow as it gets. And of course it won the Oscar, the academy voters are tastless boobs who only watch Hollywood shit so it all eventually looks good I guess. There have not been any truly great films to win an Oscar in 30+ years. And the best films of all time never even were nominated or were foreign. I always keep in mind when discussing the Oscars – though I haven’t watched it in 20 years is this my friends: Kubrick never one but Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson have….need I say anymore about the Oscars the only 4 hour commercial of the year.


  29. What do you think should make it? Avatar with it’s amazing message? Hurt Locker was a good movie for three reasons: 1) I enjoyed watchig it 2) The suspense and action were abundant and 3) It was original. Not everything has to have a message behind it. The characters and plot were complicated. What’s wrong with that. Maybe if they were blue and in 3d people would be all over their nuts.


  30. Agreed, Idiots (^^^).

    I have absolutely no film background. I have never studied filmmaking, I don’t know many of the technical terms that alot of you like to use when critiquing a movie, and I don’t feel like I need outside opinions from all the “experts” to tell me which movies I should or should not enjoy.

    It’s much simpler for me. I liked this movie. It appealed to me for many different reasons…none of which were affected by some of the obviously unrealistic details about the genuinity of some of the scenes or by the apparent lack of an obvious plot that you can put your finger on once the credits start to roll. I just enjoyed the movie. I was instantly drawn in once the movie started, and I was into it until the final scene. It was quite a pleasurable experience letting this movie run me through an emotional gamut, and what’s wrong with that? Why does there have to be anything more to it than that?

    Just to contrast, I also recently went to the theater to see Avatar in 3D. I did enjoy the movie, but not nearly as much as I enjoyed
    The Hurt Locker. It didn’t appeal as strongly to my personal tastes, and that’s precisely my point. It didn’t appeal to ME. All you “experts” on here need to stop trying to speak for the masses. If you didn’t like The Hurt Locker, for whatever reasons, that’s fine…everybody has their own personal tastes and preferences.

    Keep it simple stupid…you either enjoy watching a movie or you don’t. I enjoyed The Hurt Locker.


  31. I want point out why this is so very wrong. I want to explain the main message of the film. I want to argue why your alternative conclusion is an insult to intelligence. I want to sit you down , get a copy of the film and smack you on the head with it.

    ??„?Wow??„?¶ I just can??„?´t wrap my head around what it all means, so it must be genius.??„?
    No. You simply cannot assume audiences are complete morons. Sure, there may be some people who do not get it, however to actually comprehend the film is a very, VERY easy task, and it is irresponsible of you as a film reviewer to say anything otherwise.

    However, I also want to agree when you say it shouldnt have won any oscars. This wasnt a great film. It was ok. It dealt with war from an interesting point of view, but most of it wasnt fresh or new. Whislt I walked away satisified, I certainly did not agree with the high levels of praise it has received.
    Personally, I would rate it perhaps 6.5/10

    There are actually many, many, many more things I would like to say. This: has never felt so pertinent. However, given this insular review and the utter futility of responses to reviews, I feel it would be a waste of my time.


  32. It is interesting that you’re only willing to say this isn’t a great film rather than merely a poor one. However, I am not making the claim that people who choose to enjoy this film are merely uninformed fools; after all, the second highest grossing film of 2009 was “Transformers 2,” and if seeing giant robots pummel each other is enough to forgive a plot which makes little sense at all, to each his or her own.

    My pet peeve is a film failing to live up to its premise and potential, thus my (in this case) extreme lack of recommendation. Looking good is one aspect while performance is another, but this film stylized itself as a documentary while providing a complete work of fiction. The scenes are arranged in an order that suggests something missing each time it jumps, nor is there any flow between scenes building to anything. It’s as if watching a bunch of webisodes strung together in the only order possible because that’s all you had to work with, but if that was the intent, there were infinitely better ways to arrange this content than what was done. Just read a few of these other comments for similar opinions as well.


  33. The film is a HOT MESS. It will age like fish in the public’s consciousness. My roommate and I finished the film and looked at each other and the only word we could find was “wow,” and not in a good way. Not sure why the Hollywood establishment pushed so hard for this film, but the public definitely got it right, 15 million domestic box office is about all this film deserved. Rent “Platoon” or “Band of Brothers” and you’ll have a much more fulfilling evening.


  34. I personally think this movie won the Academy Award for political reasons, because, though the movie is not a complete disaster, it is certainly not original at all and messy in many ways.


  35. The film presented itself as though it was realistic by using bad dialogue, no central narrative and being filmed with hand-held cameras. Some of the events left me wondering, like why they didn’t diffuse or detonate the bombs remotely, why the bomb specialist also know how to be a sniper, why did a bit of blood on a round cause the gun to jam, and so on. I have since found out that I was wondering for good reason. The bomb technicians never diffuse the bombs manually, always detonating on site and the sniper scene was equally ridiculous. I also found that the shaking camera made watching the film unpleasant. For those who have seen it, the ENTIRE FILM is shot in hand held, with the exception of a few seconds of slow motion shots.

    The problem is that because of the way it’s styled, people are assuming that the film was a realistic portrayal of the Iraq war. Even if you did like the film (I thought it was terrible), you can’t make a case for it being the best of the year. It’s acclaim is clearly due to political reasons and it’s emotional subject matter.


  36. THL has got to be on my top ten list of over-rated films. Notwithstanding the lack of plot/character development, how can a film about defusing explosive devices be so goddam boring. There was more suspense in the opening farmhouse interrogation scene of ‘Inglorious Basterds’ than there was in the entire 2 hours of THL, and it was done entirely with dialogue. All this THL hype reminds me of an old SCTV skit in which John Candy and Joe Flaherty played coverall clad film critics. They’d start out with phrases like ‘Bergmanesque chiariascuro cinematography’ and ‘reminiscent of Rainer Werner Fassbinder in his existential period’ but at the end of the film everything “Blowed up good!” Yeah, blowed up real good!”


  37. read most and pretty much agree with all the NEGATIVE responses…
    2010 best FILM AWARD shudve been blank! “The Academy is willing to recognize that all ur movies are CRAP compared to past ones”…
    If this movie has a 97% in Rotten Tomatoes it can only mean 2 things….rotten tomatoes is rotten or that i still have a chance to win an oscar! Hurt Locker is a piece of crap which i wont remember by the end of the year (random war scenes, no storyline, a simple documentary with no point)…im half a yank and i just lost all my respect towards the US cinema industry cus it seems all u have to do to win an oscar is a simple pro american Hurt Locker wix i cud even do! Hell, any1 who plays CoD, BattleFields, Medal of Honor etc…wud do better!! i’m off to write Hurt Locker 2!


  38. I’d have given it a red, too, but barely. The “cowboy” main character was not going to die. I didn’t buy his entering Bagdad at night to revenge the kid. The plot was random, all over; you really had to work to see character development.

    The reviewer overstated, I think, that the film was weak. Sneaking up on people, it was probably a stunner. However, with it having won the Oscar, I expected a great film. I got a decent quasi-documentary (?) on one interesting aspect of the war. The best scene, IMO, was the grocery store scene. That said it all for returnees — the last shot was a predicatable as a Meg Ryan hug at the end of a 90’s love story.


  39. Many moviegoers had never heard of The Hurt Locker til it was nominated for an Oscar. Relatively speaking, it was a box-office flop. But the Motion Picture Academy loves movies about war, especially a current one. Previous Best Picture Oscars had gone to Wings, All Quiet on the Western Front, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, The Best Years of Our Lives, From Here to Eternity, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, The Deer Hunter, Platoon, Schindler’s List and The English Patient. All of those movies had epic plotlines, or at the very least, a plot! The Hurt Locker, while beautifully filmed, does not belong beside this illustrious group. THL is meandering and ultimately unsatisfying. Inglourious Basterds was a far more intriguing piece of wartime storytelling.


  40. I saw this movies after someone recommended it to me and seeing it win the oscar…I did the same with Slumdog millionaire and wasn’t disappointed –but this time i was. I enjoy most movies I watch because I try to watch preconceived and when movies get a lot of hype i expect it to be dissappointing in that regard even if it’s good –so i dont walk away mad i spent money or time.

    this movie wasn’t just wasnt that great. it started well but no plot really developed the characters were dull..and too much was unrealistic..normally i dont judge on the realism –b/c its a movie– but for a film to focus so much on realism to ignore the idea that a soldier jeopardizing lives and equipment would go unnoticed and un reprimanded is poor writing.. also there was no real plot other than the plot you assign to it after the fact through interpretation. I felt that is kinda cheap and in a way lazy on the part of the filmmaker.

    multiple interpretations can make the movie appear deeper than it really might be.

    all in all the suspense scenes were well done and some of the shots were done well but i’ll take ‘Saving Private Ryan’ or the HORRIBLY underrated “The Kingdom” over this any day.


  41. I saw commercials for this movie, and wasn’t much interested. Then it won the Oscar, and I decided to rent it. i expected it to be something: illuminating, exciting, engrossing, deep, anything. i had hoped to feel elevated by a piece of filmmaking that was as great as the reviewers said it was.

    So, I pressed play, watched, in fits and starts, and pressed stop at the end thinking “That’s it? That’s all there is?”

    Critics are either more sensitive to the subtle and the ingenious than I am or just more prone to heap praise on aything they like. Because THL is just a decent film about a few characters in a war. It’s shot well, the atmosphere is believable (and it should be), the acting is good, solid, but uninspired for the most part, the same for the writing. But where is the greatness I heard about? Where is the portent? Where is the elevation?

    I am actually disappointed. I expected to agree that this was the best film of the year, that this was the clear choice, that this was worth two hours of my time. And it wasn’t. I feel cheated. I feel underwhelmed. I feel disappointed.

    I don’t feel rewarded by THL. i feel cheated out of two hours I could have spent watching a better film. There are some good ambiguous films out there but, for the most part, ambiguity is lazy, artsy pretentiousness. You aren’t supposed to expect the audience to fill in the blank; you’re supposed to say what’s on your mind and respect the audience enough to let them decide how they feel, and what they think, about it.

    This is actually a dud for me, sadly enough. It doesn’t deserve the Academy award. It shouldn’t even have been in my Netflix queue. i will probably never watch this film again. It’s going to fade from memory. i’d be surprised if I remembered a single image vividly (except the sewn-up boy) a month from now. Disappointing. Critical praise should be given with extreme reluctance and deliberation; it’s indistinguishable from hype, these days.


  42. I loved The Hurt Locker. why does a movie about war have to have an opinion on war- why does it have to be ‘pro’ or ‘anti’? For me, this movie was all about the main character. He is mesmerising, and it’s all over the place because he is. How is that not saying something about the contradictory nature of war, of being a soldier and not really knowing, or possibly caring who’s side you’re on when you’re in the thick of it? I loved it because it wasn’t being all smarmy and banging on again about how America shouldn’t be involved in these countries- hell, we all know that, we all know war sux- so then why do people become soldiers? I think that is really at the core of this film, exploring why people go to war, what they get out of it and what is it about being human that makes us attracted to this. It’s an amazing film, poos all over Avatar and has nothing to do with breasts or whatever people are saying. I applaud the academy for finally picking a film with real depth.


  43. you all suck…this movie was fantastic and your all haters because everyone liked it so much…hop off the movies crotch because its not you who decides whether its good or not..its the audience. and they all loved it….


  44. They “all” didn’t love it. Many didn’t even watch it. The money it made domestically barely covered production costs, and the world-wide total barely covered advertising. “Broke even” is in no way a “smash hit.” This film has a single bragging right: Oscar award winner.


  45. This movie was brilliant in it’s simplicity. The ambiguous ending perfectly defines how meaningless and detached war has become for us as drones win wars now at the feckless fingers of teen soldiers holding a collective societal joystick. Hellfire missiles….indeed.


  46. You may be onto something there! I thought “The Thin Red Line” had the same brilliant simplicity… and droned on about it for 170 minutes. “The Hurt Locker” was clearly an improvement since it only droned on for 131 minutes instead.


  47. Additionally, I think anyone that hated this movie might be somewhat inhibited in the intellectual department. -OR- They might have a cinematic equivalent of O.D.D.

    O Oppositional
    D Defiance
    D Disorder
    ~Many of the above children need a lesson in film~ 😀 (IMHO)


  48. Are you suggesting viewers either require a minimum IQ to “get” this film or need a film degree to understand why they should like it?

    My issue (one echoed by those who know) is twofold: suspension of disbelief and cheating the audience.

    First, the storyline is based on a false premise: in the real world, this character would never be allowed to continue after the first incident. THIS. WOULD. NOT. HAPPEN. There’s a reason that the US Military is the most powerful and respected in the world, and the main character would not have remained a part of it for these kinds of actions. It’s insulting to the veterans who know better because it is in no way truthful, a fact that undermines the supposed fact-based reality that is intended to give this film weight.

    Second: the production design is a cheat; a scripted mockumentary that skips the need for a coherent, meaningful narrative with the excuse that “there’s no coherent, meaningful narrative IN WAR.” It’s the same crutch used in films like “Thelma and Louise;” the characters can be shown doing whatever sensational thing they want because, in the end, they won’t really have to suffer the consequences for their actions. It invalidates the drama. It’s akin to editing “Survivor” footage to make it seem like a non-existent rivalry is going on between players, creating fake drama and tension where none exists. This is especially evident towards the end of the film where portions of time seem to be missing, as if footage simply didn’t exist because it was never filmed (except that it ISN’T an actual documentary, the filmmakers could have filmed whatever they wanted, and they simply chose NOT to).

    I stand by my original assessment: don’t be fooled.

    Finally, please refrain from suggesting that everyone who didn’t experience the film in the same way that you did must be stupid or uneducated. That’s makes about as much sense as saying someone’s an idiot because they don’t like chocolate. We all have out little illusions; far be it from me to take away yours.


  49. I cannot refrain from suggesting…..but on a simple premise. My suggestion is that those who fail to “get it” or at least recognize an excellent film when they see it…well….they just might be a little dimwitted or shallow. Or just young. For example, a 14 year old who loves popcorn movies like “Transformers”, that kid might not “get” Hurt Locker. That is understandable. You have to look at the overwhelming evidence that audience and critic both were unanimous in praise. That means something. At the very least, it indicates what you fail to comprehend. Can two people disagree on “taste”? Sure. Some love Shawshank Redemption. Some say it is slow and boring. BUT, when the obvious and overwhelming conclusion is 97%, you have to examine your premise. Potentially, when evidence brings into question your own credibility, you should have the intellectual honesty to admit you might be wrong. I know, as I write this I might be wrong. BUT, the OVERWHELMING(3)evidence is really IN YOUR face. ??cAN YOU ADMIT??…yOU JUST MGHT BE WRONG?


  50. Sorry about the ALL CAPS there above. Mea Culpa. Too much emphasis as I read back. However, I hope I did not assault your IQ. I am assuming you might be a young man, and I would just hate to damage your precious self-esteem. 😀


  51. Damaging my precious self-esteem? No danger there; cashed that in centuries ago… cheap. You’re also WAY off on my age, too; just because I’m savvy on the Internets doesn’t mean I’m not old as dirt.

    In response to your taunt, however, I can certainly admit when I am wrong whenever it turns out that, indeed, I was wrong. Film critique, by way of contrast, is an “opinion,” and an opinion (besides being is a very subjective thing) is never wrong… it’s just my opinion. The key difference between you and I during this exchange is my ability to articulate that opinion rather than simply say “You must be dumb if you no like this movie.”


  52. Nice retort. Me must be dumb if me do like dat movie. If articulation is what you want, I suggest you check the 97% of critics, not to mention people like Travis above. As for me, this movie is excellent in almost every way possible. I like the spare dialogue and I don’t mind suspending some disbelief. After all, it is a movie. I love the way it comes together at the end and makes you think. No spoonfed narrative from Morgan Freeman necessary. It let’s you form your own conclusions, which in my mind, is almost always the best option. I think you put too much emphasis on the realistic expectation of military accuracy. Is this as god as Platoon or Saving Private Ryan? No. Is it excellent? Yes. {I still think you are young, to be honest} Just admit it, you are “ODD” (you lust for opposition, right?)
    *Fun to spar with you kid*


  53. I remember when Rambo did the whole “soldier can’t cope with civilian life” thing. Great job on the grocery store cereal confusion scene too. I remember when the Simpsons pulled that one off 15 years ago.

    The film was obviously professionally directed. What do I mean by that? It had a budget larger than a college film major’s final project and the director understands basic shots. That’s about the best compliment I can give it. I’ve seen the fake documentary style before, what is new here? Is everyone really that overwhelmed by the director’s excellent use of washed out tan colors? The visuals are ripped straight from Jarhead, Greenzone, 3 Kings, etc, etc.

    I’ve read enough positive reviews to know that I ‘got’ this film. What I don’t understand is how people, having ‘got’ this film, still think its any good. Despite being ‘ambiguous’ on the whole pro vs anti war debate, this movie is quite clearly an army recruitment video. The final minute before the credits could easily be set to the song “Citizen Soldier” and thrown up before the previews.

    And just because it won an oscar doesn’t make it good. How many people pop in “Driving Miss Daisy” on a regular basis?


  54. I really like this movie but the best film of 2009 was Inglourious Basterds. However, Guy Pearce was in The Hurt Locker for such a short time and that is unforgivable. Some of his movies are seriously underrated. Have you ever seen Ravenous, Grim?


  55. Text at the film’s beginning tells us that war can be a drug. Soon we meet a soldier who is very reckless, he wants to make an already dangerous job even MORE risky. His last conversation with his co-worker boils down to his asking “What is it about me that makes this dangerous work bearable/desirable?” Near movie’s end we hear this same man tell his toddler son that one of the only things he loves now is war. This film is about addiction; it’s about an addict.

    There are certainly other things to think about after watching The Hurt Locker. One might be willing to imagine addiction to war extending beyond this one man to an entire culture, but that’s not necessary.

    Please watch this film again, keeping in mind the (apparently difficult to achieve) insights I have given above.

    I am aware of no better creative example of the human tendency to become addicted in spite of obvious reasons to stop than this film. Mr. Reaper, you seem to have fooled yourself.


    • Thanks for the comment, Jon! As always, your opinion isn’t wrong, even if it differs from mine.

      You bring up a good point about addiction, but I think the wrong word is being used here; obsession is probably a better one, and any film by Christopher Nolan is easily a superior example of this.

      I like the director, and lead actor Jeremy Renner has since proven to be a force to be reckoned with, but the film is both a conceit and a cheat, in my humble opinion.

      The second Gulf War isn’t a great platform for this idea (better to have shown a soldier in the crusades for something like this, for example), but “bomb techs” are exciting (since they can blow up) and the popular perceived pointlessness of the Gulf War is a relevant topic (since it’s on the minds of the target audience). Couple that with the run-and-gun, documentary-style cinematography and the choppy editing (presumably intended to feel haphazard and incomplete in the name of authenticity), and the entire production falls very flat.

      You seem to be saying that if I squint my eye sockets really hard and put my empty head case into maximum overdrive that I’m going to find some secret meaning as a reward. This line of thought is typical of the kind of critics who believe that only migraine-inducing intellectual “flims” make for great cinema, while I submit that as many of them are simply on the bandwagon (because it doesn’t follow the happy-ending Hollywood formula) as there are the ones who champion this because “having no meaning is the meaning.” Fortunately, I am not one these; I prefer a coherant, focused storyline and a fulfillment of the what the trailers promised me. Call me a plot snob if you must; I wear that moniker proudly.

      If you got more from the film, good for you. I, however, see a lot of convolusion and unrealistic scenarios being used to shore up a poorly conceived storyline that have fooled the masses into thinking this is somehow a realistic view of war and its soldiers, and that is the worst part of all. But to be fair, every film I’ve seen by Terrence Malick is far, far worse than this film could have intentionally been, so there you are.

      Thanks for reading!


  56. I happened to see this movie yesterday on television dubbed in my language, which is Turkish.

    It is always a bit confusing when I do not watch a movie in its original language regarding its merits, especially at the beginning. Much as the voiceovers in Turkish can be very good quality (i.e. conveyance of the characters’ feelings, proximity of voices between the character and her/his Turkish voiceover, etc.), it is difficult to figure out as to whether the movie is a good one or a bad one (to put it simply).

    To be frank, within the first 5-10 minutes (critical ones!) I had difficulty believing that it was this “Oscar-winning” movie. I had to check the internet again, and much to my disappointment (or amusement, whatever you term it), I found that it actually was. Being very critical of Hollywood myself, I have yet seen some of the masterpieces of cinema coming from this very industry and still have a certain set of expectations from a “Hollywood” movie that will make me say “okay, I can see why it has been awarded by the Academy.”

    Let me try to summarize why this movie hasn’t appealed to a number of people including me – a modest number I should say, seeing that it has 97% positive reviews in Rotten Tomatoes which is even more amazing (!) than the movie’s having won Oscars. I would love to write a longer review as this movie has really intrigued me in terms of analyzing it. And I hope you’ll see how my points are interrelated.

    1) Yes, you are right: this movie is pointless. Why? Let me explain.

    2) The movie doesn’t have a story. What does a story need? Very simply put, a story needs at least one character undergoing a journey with a beginning and an end -a clear end or an open end, doesn’t matter; what matters is an end- throughout which the reader/viewer witnesses an “internal journey” as much as an external one. Namely, the character(s) is somebody in the beginning, and s/he is somebody else in the end – with a different approach to life and its challenges. This doesn’t happen in the movie. They start with a fuzzy constellation of feelings, and they end up with a fuzzy constellation of feelings of the same sort, maybe a bit heightened. Which brings us to:

    3) There are no characters in this movie. In order for a person to be a character, s/he needs to get into interaction with a) other characters b) nature [Iraqi landscape and people in this context, well you can almost put people in this category cause Iraqis are not even crafted as characters to be worthy of characters overall], c) the character her/himself. And within this interaction, there should be certain conflicts that should make the character take certain decisions as regards how to handle a dilemma, how to approach another character, how to tackle a problem with multiple bad consequences, etc. And all these decisions should build up into a journey (internal as much as external). This is almost totally lacking in the movie. We don’t see them take decisions vis-à-vis other characters, nature, or themselves. There is not even one substantial conflict that makes you say, “What is he gonna do about it? Let’s see.” Don’t get it wrong; different explosives and gunned men are not conflicts. They are just new items on the way to pass to a new level, like when playing some computer game with wars and guns. And ultimately, for a character to be a character, we as the audience should be made to want to identify with at least one of them, cause we are fucking humans (sorry) and what makes a story a story is the actions, thoughts, and feelings altogether that the character displays, this way kindling a wish in the audience to identify with her/his position. There is yet another option to identification: what the movie can achieve is to perpetually make us fail to identify with a character and to be alienated from her/him. And yet, this movie achieves neither identification nor alienation; in order to be alienated, we first need to be seduced to identify ourselves and then witness our seduction being left unanswered. Alienation from the characters is what matters in this case, and not alienation from the movie itself. The former can be a very strong, revelatory experience; the latter just points to an unsuccessful movie. And the worst is, when you don’t have characters, you don’t need acting. This movie has people acting in it and yet no acting going on. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the actors in the movie are bad; it is just that there is not much need to act anyway. Much as the term “psychological depth” might strike some as schmaltzy, it is, uhm, needed for there to be a reason for the audience to appreciate acting, even if it is a movie about inhumanity, because at the end of the day even the most inhumane is human.

    4) There is no plot in this movie. There are sequences with different settings, different characters who are “not character enough” anyway, and different explosives. There is not much reason why a sequence comes before or after another sequence, so you can actually shuffle them. Again: there could be a reason for specific sequences to be precisely in the very order they are found – only if there were real characters instead of a handful of people undergoing similar experiences with very shallow, cliché twitchings of mental, intellectual, and emotional involvement with other people, settings, events etc. When there is no reason why sequences follow a certain order, then the story fails to be a story, as there is no beginning as there is no end. Again, don’t get me wrong: there are brilliant movies in the history of cinema that end where they start. But these movies are those that do have a reason why they end up where they start and can justify this cycle throughout their story, character development, and plot. This movie just cannot justify it.

    5) …which all brings us back to the pointlessness of the movie. A movie without a story, character(s), and plot fails to have a point. Gloss it as much as you can with good looking actors, special effects, etc. – it will fail to be a movie. Alright, the war is pointless, all this violence and destruction is pointless. But you can not run away from “pointfulness” to show the pointlessness of the war. The movie still needs a point; a pointless movie “points to” no other than the laziness of the scriptwriters as regards coming up with a, uhm, story.

    Personally, I think this movie is pornography of some sort. What makes pornography pornographic is not merely that it shows genitals and penetration per se, but that it is very detailed in its description to the point of making the temporality of the real action equal to that of the movie. In a way, how detailed each scene -in the absence of a story, character(s), and plot, that is- and yet how it lacks a reason makes the movie pornographic. And personally, I prefer watching, uhm, sexual porn as I am not looking for a story, character(s), or a plot in it and at least there is a chance that I might get aroused and horny. But this is impossible through a compilation of violence porn that pretends to be a movie at its very worst… maybe not for those that are aroused by violence of this sort  In a way, the movie is accurate in at least one thing – when it says at the beginning “War is a drug.” This movie is like a drug, too; it has the potential to give you impressions here and there that you will shrug off when the trip is over.

    … And just because it is about Iraq and has well-made (I can not even say “acted”) scenes, the movie has won 6 Oscars? I cannot help pitying the Academy for this more than anything.

    Does this all make any sense?


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