Best Picture Recall: The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker was one of many war movies set in Iraq to release in the wake of post-9/11. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, the film follows the experiences of an Iraq War Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team. The film stars Jeremy Renner as Sergeant First Class William James with Anthony Mackie playing Sergeant J. T. Sanborn. Some of the other supporting cast for the film included Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Christian Camargo, and Ralph Fiennes. While the film struggled at the box office, it went on to rival Avatar at the Academy Awards, each claiming nine nominations. The Hurt Locker went on to win six of its nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.
So, why do we think this Best Picture winner is worth a second watch?
1) What A Sight
I’m trying to be a little more clever with my headlines, but honestly, the visuals for this movie are part of what made it such an award contender. Bigelow delivers on this kind of raw, gritty feel through the shots and settings they utilize. However, the most striking aspect is how close and personal the camera seems to everything transpiring in the movie. The movie utilizes numerous shots in the tight quarters of the Humvee and gives the audience an up-close look at the actions of these soldiers. It simultaneously utilizes the use of wide-angle shots incredibly well and highlights the vastness of what these soldiers must keep their eyes on during every call. The way it is all edited together is superb, and it takes the audience into the mindset and view of James, Sanborn, and Eldridge.
2) Use of Sound
While the visuals might be striking for the audience, the use of sound is also as equally impressive. The film went on to win Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing in addition to the other awards mentioned previously, and it is well deserved. I always appreciate a film that can utilize silence and stillness as well as the sounds of huge explosions, and The Hurt Locker delivers well on that balance. The sound effects for the gunfire and explosions are as shocking to the system as they should be, and they are often made more poignant by the previous background sounds of soldiers breathing heavily and taking in their surroundings. I also think this barely perceptible ringing of tinnitus is used well several times to highlight the tension in various scenes. The use of sound adds to the visceral experience that the cinematography is already putting forward.
3) The Spotlight
While the movie has caught some flack in the past for different reasons, I think the spotlight of the film is conveyed the entire time. Bigelow has mentioned in interviews how she was intrigued by the psychology of people who run toward danger when most are running away, and she explores that dynamic here. The movie begins with a quote by Chris Hedges that says, “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” That thought is certainly what Bigelow and her team dig into throughout the story, especially through Jeremy Renner’s character.
While The Hurt Locker might not be completely accurate in terms of a day in the life of a EOD team, it certainly does highlight the visceral experiences of soldiers on the ground. This movie holds your attention and leaves you with a sense of tension in every scene. While all of the reasons I’ve listed are why I believe the film is Best Picture quality, the movie truly is held together by the excellent performances given by Renner, Mackie, and Geraghty. The Hurt Locker superbly delves into the psyche of those fighting on the ground, making it a film that leaves a lasting impression.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.