The Hurt Locker, even before it won Best Picture, Editing, Sound, Sound Editing, Original Screenplay and Director at the Oscars, got a lot of very positive press, reviews and word-of-mouth. Few, if any, of the small number of films about the ongoing conflicts the United States is involved were as well received. Perhaps the fact that this film is essentially a character study of how one small Ordinance Disposal team handles the stress of their assignments helps explain this-the political commentary on the war, if it’s there at all, is strictly in the background and not explicit.
The Hurt Locker, is in fact, more of a “men under great stress” action film than it is a serious look at the war. You could substitute fire fighters, cops, or other “high stress” occupations for OD and achieve nearly the same film. The background that ties the film to the current conflict in Iraq feels like window dressing. This is not to say that the actors don’t do a good job with their parts, but the script’s many moments that feel like any number of late 1980s action films-at many moments I expected to find Murtagh stuck in a Humvee, talking about how he’s far too old for this. The film’s action sequences are directed and edited so well that it’s impossible to not be drawn in to them. The Hurt Locker is to be commended, as well, for going down the “maverick X goes out on his own” path, only to show how futile it is.
More moments like that, and more time with the characters, developing them beyond typical cookie cutter stereotypes of “The guy who’s about to break” (Brian Geraghty, Jarhead), “the maverick on the edge” (Jeremy Renner, 28 Weeks Later), and “the straight arrow who’s trying to alpha crazy dude” (Anthony Mackie, The Manchurian Candidate) would elevate this film to a much higher level. Instead the film concentrates on the “adrenaline junkie” clichés. The Hurt Locker is by no means a bad film, but it’s script is particularly weak. The real reason to watch are the very tense, very well done bomb disposal and action sequences, for which Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days) deserved an Oscar.