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Hurt Locker, The (Blu-ray Review)

28 Jan, 2010 By: John Latchem

War Drama
Box Office $12.7 million
$26.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for war violence and language.
Stars Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Evangeline Lilly, Guy Pearce.

Most war films focus on the trauma such experiences can have on its participants. The Hurt Locker shows us how war can be a drug as addictive as nicotine or cocaine, and for its efforts deserves all the acclaim it has received this awards season.

The film was written by Mark Boal and is inspired by his experiences as an embed with a U.S. Army Explosives Ordinance Disposal team.

Set in Iraq in 2004, the focus is on bomb tech Sgt. William James, played by Jeremy Renner, who is one of those actors who looks familiar but you just can’t quite remember what you’ve seen him in before (he was in SWAT, The Assassination of Jesse James and 28 Weeks Later, and guest starred on such TV shows as “Angel” and “House”).

James the soldier not only feels at home in war, but thrives on it, as if his only lot in life is to serve under the most hostile of conditions, despite having a young family waiting for him back home. The other members of his team consider him reckless, especially as their tour nears its end.

Kathryn Bigelow’s skillful direction, backed by Barry Ackroyd’s visceral cinematography, gives a visual clarity to the narrative that accentuates the action beyond the realm of meaningless explosions. Each blast, each bullet, leaves an indelible trace on the audience, as if they were in the heart of Baghdad living through it themselves. Some scenes are so disturbing you will sit in amazement at some of the things the soldiers must endure on a daily basis.

The movie is populated by a mix of unknowns and recognizable faces, but it’s cast in such a way that you can’t really tell who will live and who will die. This sustains a palpable level of tension throughout the movie because there’s no way to predict what will happen next.

The Hurt Locker refuses to subject viewers to yet another debate about the merits of the Iraq War. Rather, it is a fitting tribute to the hard work of the men and women putting themselves in harm’s way.

The disc includes a commentary and a making-of featurette that cover a lot of the same ground. Commentary with Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow is a bit more analytical and reflective, whereas the featurette is a standard EPK piece that devotes a few minutes to each of the major aspects of the production.

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