More noise than signal

The Hurt Locker

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

Jeremy Renner’s Sergeant First Class William James arrives in Iraq as a replacement bomb disposal expert, an opportunity opened up by dead man’s smouldering boots. He joins Anthony Mackie’s Sergeant J. T. Sanborn and Brian Geraghty’s Specialist Owen Eldridge as they go about the extraordinary day to day activities of bomb disposal, which are anything but day to day.

There’s perhaps not all that much value in describing in great detail each of the bomb disposal vignettes that we see, as while each of them are quite excruciatingly tense experiences, they are as much there to gain an insight into the characters as they are to shed a light on the traumatic experiences of soldiers undertaking this kind of work.

Primary focus, of course, is on Renner’s character, who seems like a reckless, thrill-seeking cowboy, and a large part of the success of the film is derived from his performance in taking us along as we try, and ultimately fail, to answer the question of why he’s like this. Some people are just wired that way, it seems to say.

On a second viewing that’s perhaps the only disappointment in a film that is otherwise blindingly well executed. Nail-biting stuff, with a clutch of excellent performances in the lead and supporting roles, and some impactful, some might say explosive, moments. Extraordinary stuff, and I think in the last decade only Sicario has come close to building the same levels of tension that The Hurt Locker did.

I don’t think I have a great deal innovative or informative to tell you about The Hurt Locker – it was many people’s top film of 2009, or 2008, depending on how you count it, and I broadly agree. Required viewing.