The Hurt Locker

500 Days Of Film Reviews The Hurt Locker And Finds A Superb, Authentic, Tension-Fueled Thriller

Sergeant William James is unpredictable and likes to take risks. 


He lives life on its most dangerous edge - this is where he thrives. 

James is often unpopular at work. The fact that he is a bomb disposal expert working during the Iraq war makes it easy to see why.

However, for James, war is a drug - dangerous, costly and addictive. His is arguably the most dangerous job in the world and yet he welcomes the discovery of each device.

Is It Any Good?

I am not sure that I have watched many films with more tension than The Hurt Locker.


Director, Kathryn Bigelow, creates this level of tension by building her film on authentic foundations. She wastes no time introducing us to her characters, makes us care about them and then places us alongside them as they go about their dangerous business. 

For me, the tension is almost unbearable. When I first watched The Hurt Locker, I didn’t know what was going to happen or who was going to survive. Of course, back then, most of its main actors were relatively unknown and so I never felt that any character was 'safe'.

This makes The Hurt Locker a tough film to watch but I love every single minute. 


I enjoy The Hurt Locker for many reasons but mainly because the film feels honest and authentic. It has an almost documentary feel.


Having now watched The Hurt Locker again for my 500 Days Of Film Challenge, I sense this even more - it really stands up to the war documentaries that I have watched (such as Restrepo and Armadillo).   

For me, the film achieves an impressive level of authenticity because of:

  1. Mark Boal's excellent script
  2. Bigelow's superb direction
  3. The film's location, costume and props

1. The Script

Mark Boal’s script feels so authentic because he used his time on an embed with a bomb disposal unit in Iraq as the basis for his screenplay.

2. The Direction

Bigelow created 360 degree sets and placed cameras in four locations around these sets. While these cameras were unobtrusive, the actors had no place to hide - making them feel as if they really were working on the streets of Baghdad.  

3. The Locations, Costumes And Props

Bigelow shot The Hurt Locker in Jordan to ensure that her locations looked realistic. Filming took place in the summer when the weather was, hot - punishingly hot.


Jeremy Renner had to wear a real bomb disposal suit during many of his scenes. These suits are extremely heavy and hot. Bigelow believes that these conditions gave her actors something to work with - and an added degree of realism.


Meanwhile, a lot of work was done on the creation of the explosions shown in the film. Bigelow didn’t want to film a simple fireball. She wanted her explosions to have the same dense, particulate make-up as the real thing.   


The Hurt Locker features some truly outstanding performances. Brian Geraghty is brilliant as Specialist Owen Eldridge. His character becomes the eyes and ears of the audience.


Meanwhile, Anthony Mackie is superb as Sergeant JT Sanborn. Bigelow describes him as the everyman of the film - strong and rational in the face of the chaos of war. 


Jeremy Renner is outstanding as Sgt William James. His is such a fascinating character to watch. 

He is attracted to war, to the adrenaline and the chaos. He is unpredictable and yet also a true master at his work.


He does a job that few could or would be willing to do - and he does it with unsettling enthusiasm.

The Hurt Locker is a superb film and a tense and fascinating look at heroism - and what it costs.

Random Observations

As the tour progressed, I found myself feeling increasingly desperate for the platoon to make it back home safely. I couldn’t bear the thought of that countdown starting again, marking the beginning of another tour.


Kathryn Bigelow won the Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker. She was the first (and, so far only) woman to have received this award.

Bigelow went on to direct Zero Dark Thirty about the hunt and eventual capture of Osama Bin Laden. 

Have you seen The Hurt Locker? What did you think of this film? Let me know by leaving a comment in the section below.

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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