Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

(One great movie in recent times – Poster source: Wikipedia)

The Time Magazine calls this movie “A Near-Perfect War Film”

The fact of the matter is that the truth is not far from this. The Hurt Locker is indeed a near perfect war film. It could have been the perfect movie if not for some holes in the plot and loose execution of certain scenes. So, let’s talk about the plot holes first.

Holes in the Plot

In Wikipedia, it was reported:-

Author Brandon Friedman, also a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan criticized the accuracy of the film’s representation of combat, saying “in real life, EOD techs don’t conduct dangerous missions as autonomous three-man teams without communications gear.

Another thing you’ll rarely hear in combat is an EOD E-7 suggesting to two or three of his guys that they leave the scene of an explosion in an Iraqi city by saying: “C’mon, let’s split up. We can cover more ground that way.

In IMDB, the following plot holes were also mentioned:-

The EOD team usually went out of the wire by themselves. Usually when EOD goes out of the gate they are escorted by a quick reaction force (QRF) of 3 or more Humvees.

In the stand off scene in the desert the shelter the insurgents are being protected by would not have been strong enough to stop the bullets from a Barrett M107 anti-material rifle, which is designed to punch through thick armour plating

But the one bigger plot holes that I got irritated rather early into the movie was when Sergeant First Class William James had his first assignment with the Bravo Company and a taxi storms in, passing the secured perimeter setup by the heavily armed US Army personals and only stops when William James pulls out a gun and points at the driver.

(One lonely man against a potential suicide bomber – it does not make sense when the locals know that it is not safe to barge in a heavily armed perimeter manned by nervous US soldiers. In real life, the taxi driver would have been dead)

William James asks the driver to back away. This scene did not make any sense all – what if the driver has been a suicide bomber, with a load of explosions in his taxi? The initial reaction of the US Army in these tense situation especially have someone driving against the perimeter was to shoot at the driver. But no, here, the driver was allowed to ponder on his next “action” despite a barrage of weapons and trigger nervous US soldiers focussing on the driver and William James coolly asking whether the driver wants to back off.

You don’t get that kind of soft treatment from the US Army on the field! These guys don’t take their chances especially in Iraq.

(One of the opening scenes in the movie – well executed and simply breathtaking! Guy Pearce gets wiped out and the hero acted by Jeremy Renner comes into the picture)

The Plot

Despite obvious holes in the plot, the rest of the movie of simply impressive. Although some reviews have mentioned that there is no real “mission” in the movie, I dare say that not many movies out there that grabs your full attention by the neck in the first 10 minutes. The first scene in the movie was so tense that I hardly blinked, worrying I may miss a small detail. It was superbly directed and taken and set the premise for the rest of the story to unfold.

Read the full plot here if you still have not heard of this movie.

Scripts are kept to the minimum and nothing much brilliant was heard throughout the movie. We don’t expect brilliant words like “go ahead, make my day” coming out from Sergeant First Class William James’ mouth as he sweats profusely as his steady hands make it’s way around the dusty wires looking for the detonator but thankfully the action alone was more than enough to compensate for this lack of “memorial words”.

Nearest one would be “there’s enough bang in there to blow us all to Jesus. If I’m gonna die, I want to die comfortable” when William James removed his blast resistance suit and tries to disarm a car load of bombs without any protection. That speaks the reckless nature of William James (which earns him a whack to the face from his team member, Sergeant Sanborn after the bomb has been disarmed)

(The hero “painting” the target for his team member with the anti material rifle. This picture could have been taken from the real battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan but it is not)

Direction

Kathryn Bigelow did one fine job to get this movie as realistic as possible. The movie was shot in Jordan where there is great number of Iraqi refugees are staying. So imagine having foreigners in US Army battle fatigues, driving around in Humvees through the narrow streets of Jordan and getting the scenes done was unbelievable.

It was high risk taken by the movie maker – they could taken the same shots in less risky locations but without taking the shots in the right location would have made the movie rather artificial. At moments, you will forget and start to think that the movie was actually taken in Iraq and that Sergeant First Class William James is a real person.

Shots of innocent people on the rooftops and balcony looking down on (I guess on the movie making) and surprised look on their faces, adds to the realism of the shot.

The bomb disarming scenes was interesting and the movie makers took the pain to portray the different types of bombing detonations – by mobile phone, detonation wires, detonation switch and human suicide bomber.

(Anthony Mackie as the no nonsense, by the book, Sergeant J.T. Sanborn with the anti material rifle – he outshines Jeremy Renner in many areas and was a saving grace to the holes in the plot in sense that he objects to it)

Acting

The movie is so focussed on the 3 main characters who make the crack EOD team that you may miss the other big names in the movie – Guy Pearce (the EOD member who dies in the first part of the movie), David Morse (the Colonel who called the EOD to disarm the bomb at an UN building car park) and Ralph Fiennes (the private contractor who get stuck with a flat tire in the desert).

Jeremy Renner who acts the main character in the movie, the rather reckless and risk taker Sergeant First Class William James excels in the bomb disarm and battle scenes and that it is about it. Unfortunately and perhaps due to the nature of the movie and character, Jeremy hardly shines when it comes to scenes that call for the character to be highly emotional. Don’t get me wrong, Jeremy is doing one fine acting in the movie but there are rooms to improve.

Anthony Mackie who acts as Sergeant J. T. Sanborn (William James’s team member) on the other hand outshines Jeremy Renner in all acting departments. It was just too bad he was not nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the recent Oscars.

(The view from the Humvee before an IED goes off and kills a high ranking soldier – the effect is great and shows just how deadly the streets of Baghdad can be with the locals looking so innocent)

Cinematography

There is little wonder why cinematographer Barry Ackroyd won an Oscar for this movie. Watching this movie is almost like watching a documentary – shaky movement (not much and not as bad as Cloverfield) and a gloomy background – the neighbourhood street full of rubbish and dirty and the ordinary people look clueless and nervous and sounds of helicopters and jets flying overhead.

Capturing the tense moments from many angles makes the story telling more compelling  and Barry does this well. Shots from afar and where the residents are looking from, from team member’s vantage point providing cover whilst William James disarming the bomb, from the inside of the blast resistant suit where his breathing is heavy and warm and from the angle of the resistance members – how vulnerable the US soldiers (in this case, the EOD team) are from sniper shots and all out attacks.

Conclusion

The movie makers may have their own reasons for having these holes in the plot (perhaps to synchronise with the script or budget, perhaps to focus more on the characters or perhaps simply to make things more entertaining) but despite getting the movie as realistic as possible (it was shot in Jordan, a stone throw away from Iraq), certainly having holes in the plot gives the movie a near perfect label.

It would have been great if it has been a perfect movie – for the movie was nominated for 9 Oscars and won 6 including for Best Picture and Best Director.

The Hurt Locker is a must watch war movie!

Final say

The plus points: The background, story and realism

The negative points: The glaring holes in plot

(Click here for other movie reviews)

Read Also

How it works: The Hurt Locker’s Bomb Fighting Suit

LA Times: The Making of The Hurt Locker

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

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