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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'The Hurt Locker': A Masterful and Boldly Visceral Modern War Thriller

Movie poster for the film The Hurt Locker starring Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie

“The Hurt Locker” (2008) is a bold and visceral war thriller starring Jeremy Renner as William James, a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army assigned to a Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit in Iraq circa 2004. James joins Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), upon the departure of their previous commander, Sergeant Matt Thompson (Guy Pearce).

Assigned to the hazardous defusal and removal of explosive devices throughout the war-torn streets of Baghdad, the trio labor under intense pressure of endless near-death engagements. As Sanborn and Eldridge (in particular) chafe and crack under the psychological pressure of their assignments, James thrills at the heightened tension, embracing increasingly extreme and dangerous forays to the chagrin of his cohorts. The storyline charts the delicate dynamic between the three leads as they bristle, confront, bond and endanger one another through the course of many edge-of-you-seat moments—delivering a piercing human drama within the framework of a modern war story.

Written by Mark Boal (“Zero Dark Thirty”, “Detroit”) and directed by Kathryn Bigelow (“Point Break”, “Zero Dark Thirty”), “The Hurt Locker” at its best balances remarkable suspense with human frailty and the underlying, often unexpected motivation that drives some to war as a way of life. Indeed, the film’s opening quotation from journalist Chris Hedges, “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug” rings entirely true-to-form in this depiction of war as an agent of twisted, undeniable pleasure for some. Winner of the 2008 Academy Award for Best Picture—a surprising though not undeserving achievement for one of the most original and galvanizing combat films of the 21st Century.


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