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The Hurt Locker

Bombs Over Iraq

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Some say it may be too soon to tackle the ongoing Iraq War. However, thereís definitely a place for reflection of a situation that is still underway. Not surprisingly, The Hurt Locker doesnít tackle an overview of the war but focuses on a select group of soldiers. No context is given and no overarching themes are visited, making the war more of a backdrop than the concentration of the film. And while thatís a relief, the film moves with an obvious undercurrent of meaning and message. Unfortunately, it never feels as clear as the film obviously wants it to be.

Constructing a vague subtlety in film is not a bad thing, usually itís that interpretive edge that separates the good from the great, but The Hurt Locker seems to be unaware of exactly what message(s) they do want to perpetuate. It appears to be a meditation on the effects of war on a small Army bomb squad (Explosive Ordnance Disposal or EOD team) as they watch a city crumble around them, but exactly what those effects are, is unclear.

Director Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Strange Days) is no stranger to action films, especially ones with an emotional and psychological pull. The Hurt Locker is not lacking in either of those aspects, itís the lack of plot thatís frustrating. Maybe itís this frustration that the viewer is supposed to feel, but it was a frustration that bordered on boredom.

Jeremy Renner (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) does a commendable job portraying newly appointed EOD team leader, Staff Sergeant William James who appears to be fearless and undeterred by danger, to the chagrin of his team members: the strong willed but practical Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and the fragile Eldridge (Brian Geraghty). To many it appears that Eldridge is the most psychologically affected by the situation, but as death is all around him, his nervous state may be the sanest. Itís Jamesí addiction to danger and death defying situations that appear heroic at first, but depressing as the film progresses. James is great at what he does, but itís as if he has a death sentence. Maybe the constant barrage of senseless killing and destruction has made him lose his affection for human kind.

Is The Hurt Locker supposed to be a war film? Itís unclear. The Hurt Locker could be a number of things: the dungeon of fear in which the soldiers are constantly living, the exposure to a side of human kind many never see, or maybe itís just the heavy suit they wear to disarm bombs. The film may not be sewn together in a satisfying way but Bigelow and her actors do give clear glimpses of the affect of war and death on these ďheroicĒ Americans.