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Film: The Hurt Locker
"Hurt" might be an understatement.

The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.
Chris Hedges

A 2009 film directed by Kathryn Bigelow that chronicles the lives of three U.S. soldiers in Iraq: Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner), Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty). They make up an explosives ordnance disposal team (essentially a bomb squad).

The film is done in the same vein as Generation Kill and has a minor amount of jitter cam for flavor. It does not address the ever-controversial politics of the war, instead focusing on the day-to-day lives of the characters. Critically acclaimed to the point of apoplexy, it still suffered theatrically due the trend of audiences steering clear of war movies during wartime. The Hurt Locker outperformed nearly the entire War On Terror film genre, notably drawing in a larger audience than other acclaimed films such as such as Stop-Loss and In The Valley Of Elah. Veterans who have seen the movie tend to complain about the liberties taken with EOD policy, but tend to agree that it captures the emotional and psychological effect of War in general (and the Iraq War in particular) like no other film.

Winner of six Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay (by Mark Boal), Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow), and Best Picture. Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director—and she beat out her former husband and director extraordinaire James Cameron to boot.

It holds the dubious distinction of being the least-attended best picture Oscar winner on record.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Deconstructed with James. He's good at everything that has to do with defusing bombs. Everything else he fails at - soldiering, socialization, investigation, returning to civilian life... He even fails at jobs related to defusing bombs, like breaking locks on a bomb.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The sniper stand-off. Fantastic not just for the scene itself, but because it's a quiet drama scene that still involves armed combat.
    • Sanborn's Heroic BSOD scene is the more traditional variety.
  • Anachronism Stew: The movie is supposedly set in Baghdad, 2004;
    • The Army wears the ACU (Army Combat Uniform) camouflage pattern, not adopted until 2005. They should have been wearing the DCU (Desert Combat Uniform) camouflage pattern.
    • In one scene, they play an Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 did not come out until 2005. The game they are playing, Gears of War, was not released until 2006.
    • James uses a Beretta 92F pistol to threaten the taxi driver. The 92F had at this point been replaced in service by the 92FS.
    • Multiple soldiers are using the older PASGT personal armor. Whilst the PASGT was still in use, it was mainly utilized as a last resort when other armors were lost or broken, and saw most of its Iraq use as makeshift up-armor for vehicles. Newer units, like the soldiers depicted, would be wearing the Interceptor body armor that replaced it.
    • YouTube is mentioned at one point. As old as this will make some of us feel, YouTube was only created in 2005, and didn't see popular use until 2006.
    • Three Ministry songs are played in the movie, from the album "Rio Grande Blood". This album came out in 2006.
    • Deltoid protectors, not introduced until 2008, are worn by some soldiers.
  • Anyone Can Die: Invoked, what with the movie's random killing off of major actors, but it doesn't actually follow through on killing off any of the main characters.
  • Armor Is Useless: You're in close proximity to a bomb. If it goes off, regardless of range, you're going to be maimed. This is why James' predecessor died, despite being a ways away from the bomb. James actually invokes it at one point, ditching his suit to more easily work on a bomb that is the size of the car trunk it's placed in; there's no point to wearing it in the situation.
    • However, the armor proves NOT to be useless when James fails to disarm the bomb that's been strapped to the unfortunate civilian. He doesn't get far enough away before the explosion to avoid getting blasted from his feet and pelted with debris, but he does survive.
  • Badass: Many of the characters, but James most of all.
    • Badass Crew: They gather around stuff that can blow up you, me, and everyone. Bravo EOD team is badass, without question.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Massively, surprisingly, and pleasantly subverted. Sgt. Sanborn actually survives to the end of Bravo company's rotation, in spite of his new Cowboy Cop boss.
  • Cold Sniper: Sanborn, or at least he tries to be. Given that his MOS doesn't involve sniping human targets and the extra environmental and stress factors involved therein, he improvises pretty well.
  • The Collector of the Strange: The collection of detonation fuses of the various bombs James has disarmed over his career, which he keeps in his locker. It's the movie's eponymous Hurt Locker, though there isn't an actual Title Drop.
  • Colonel Kilgore: James.
  • Death by Cameo: Guy Pearce (Sergeant Thompson) and Ralph Fiennes.
  • Deconstruction: Of Middle-Eastern war movies. In most war movies, battles are epic and climatic. In The Hurt Locker, one of the battles was long, drawn out, and the heroes didn't do anything outside of "wait for the Sniper to leave." Usually, in a war movie, the heroes confront a Big Bad who has been behind the conflict they're in. Not only do they not find and confront the villain, but James' attempt to search him out is laughable at best. And also, while the heroes usually preform heroic feats in war movies like disarming a bomb, the last bomb defusal was a complete failure, due to the bomb having unbreakable locks.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Sgt. Thompson. He's killed in the first scene and replaced by the real protagonist, James.
  • Demolitions Expert: All members of the EOD team, but James in particular.
  • Desk Jockey: Colonel Cambridge. A Justified Trope, in that he's a counselor. He finally gets out once to try and help Eldridge, who is on the edge, but gets blown to pieces.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Averted. A majority of the action scenes consist solely of bomb disposal, while even the more action-packed incidents eschew the usual adrenaline-pumping music and fierce firefights for near-silent scenes spent aiming weapons at enemies that may or may not be there. The only time insurgents are fully visible is during the opening - everywhere else, they're either blended in with the crowd or shrouded in darkness.
  • Dueling Movies: With Avatar, of all things. The media talk of the movies dueling was fueled, in part, by the fact that Kathryn Bigelow is James Cameron's ex-wife. There seemed to be a bit of behind-the-scenes drama going on in the fight to declare one of them Best Picture of 2009. (The Hurt Locker won.) Mostly over who'd grab the most Oscars. All that drama was just speculation, though, and Cameron is on record as praising The Hurt Locker, calling it "this generation's Platoon."
  • Foreshadowing: Eldridge saying I don't like to get shot.
  • Glory Hound: James, to an extent. Sanborn contemplates killing him for it.
  • Harmful to Minors: The body bomb. It's explained the insurgents kill children and strap their corpses with IEDs. Pleasant.
  • Heroic BSOD: Experienced by all three characters to varying degrees. Obviously, it's a war film.
    • James is obviously on the edge and suffering from one when he is placed in Bravo.
    • Sanborn holds it together longer, but he finally breaks down when watching James' carefree recklessness reminds him of his own mortality, and that no one but his parents would miss him or care he was gone since he doesn't have a son to remember him like James does.
    • Eldridge could be the poster-boy for this trope; he suffers a minor but long-lasting BSOD when he fails to make a shot that would've saved Sergeant Thompson, prompting Cambridge to come see him regularly. He finds Cambridge to be a nice guy and genuinely helpful, but comments that Cambridge suffers from a case of good intentions, and that he can only help to a point as long as he's behind a desk and unable to relate to actual combat experience. This causes Cambridge to join the team on a run, where he is killed by an IED; needless to say, Eldridge doesn't react well to seeing the man who's helped him get through his tough time blown to pieces, and the fact that it's technically his own fault certainly doesn't help. And then he's nearly abducted by insurgents, but even saved, has a gunshot wound and six months of physical therapy to look forward to before he can walk again. His reaction to the final event involves much more outright anger than the other problems, but the extent to which he's broken is no less obvious for the lack of tears.
  • Ironic Echo: When Sanborn and Eldridge consider killing James in what would look like accident, Eldridge says that "all they'd find would be his helmet". When Cambridge steps on a bomb, all they find left of him is ... his helmet.
  • Jitter Cam: Not only does it shake, but it keeps zooming in and out at whipping velocities.
  • Kick the Dog: Ralph Fiennes's character only seems concerned with collecting the bounties on the heads of his captured insurgents, which is apparently so the audience doesn't feel so bad when he dies.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: James, after the nighttime market bombing. Sanborn and Eldridge call him on it, but as he outranks them there's nothing they can do.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: Ends up with Eldridge getting shot, his thighbone fractured in nine places, and him being (rightfully) extremely angry at James for chasing after imaginary insurgents for his "adrenaline fix" and almost getting dragged away by real insurgents as a result.
  • Married to the Job: James.
  • Meaningful Name: Colonel Cambridge, a highly educated but out-of-touch psychiatrist who spends most of his time doing desk work. Also, William James, for whom bomb disarmament seems to be a variety of religious experience.
  • Mildly Military: James wouldn't get away with the crap he pulls, but seeing as his "Company" is woefully understaffed and he's the one in charge, he does.
  • Military Maverick: This film works as a deconstruction of this trope. James' unorthodox and reckless tactics nearly get everyone killed multiple times (especially early on in the movie), and seem shocking rather than cool and badass. The toll it takes on his sanity seems to be quite high.
  • Mood Whiplash: There's a scene where Eldridge, in the midst of being med-evaced, curses James out with great bitterness for getting him shot, and then immediately has a big smile and brotherly words for Sanborn. With no pause in between.
    • Cambridge awkwardly forcing some civilians to move their stuff, then awkwardly waving them goodbye in an almost comical scene. Then he explodes.
  • Morality Pet: Beckham, for James.
  • No Ending: Days Left in Delta Company's Rotation: 365. Open to interpretation; could be a happy ending, since James is doing what he loves and is saving others from the bombs, could be a Downer Ending, because he's lost himself in war.
  • Not-So-Small Role: Subverted to keep an Anyone Can Die mood, as several easily recognizable people die: major actors Ralph Fiennes, David Morse and Guy Pearce have less than 10 minutes screen time each, and both Fiennes and Pearce die in said short appearances.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: An officer insists that an Iraqi prisoner of war is "not going to make it." When the scene cuts away, a gunshot is audible.
  • Only Sane Man: Sanborn.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Tragically and realistically averted. Sergeant Thompson tries to run out of the bomb's killzone, but he doesn't get far enough. Unusual for this trope, the concussive force of the bomb kills him rather than the fireball.
  • Overt Operative: Deconstructed for the terrible idea trying to act like 007 in reality is; when James attempts this to find information on the body bombers, he doesn't just fail, he fails spectacularly, with punctuation.
  • Private Military Contractors: Ralph Fiennes and his team of bounty hunters. They die.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: James and Sanborn
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Averted. The protagonists are called upon to fire a .50 Barrett rifle, which jams due to blood in the magazine. The rounds are removed from the magazine, individually cleaned, breech-loaded and fired as normal. It's unlikely that fresh blood on its own would have caused such a misfire, but tiny bits of flesh (which would) are implied to be mixed in with it.
  • Riding into the Sunset: Evoked by the cinematography, but cruelly subverted.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Subverted. James tries to go on one after he thinks Beckham dies. His actions get him nowhere except confusing a local teacher and pissing off his wife, and very nearly in trouble with the guards at his base. The second time he tries it in the aftermath of a particularly vicious bombing run on the market, he nearly gets Eldridge killed/captured.
  • Room Full of Crazy: His fellow soldiers react to James' collection of bomb fuses this way. More like a "box full of crazy", but the principle's the same. They're all drunk, however.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Guy Pierce's character is in the film only to set the mood early and to explain why James has transferred into the squad.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: All three protagonists: James already is one when he appears, Eldridge is one from the second scene and onwards, and while Sanborn holds out until later in the film, he falls into this too.
  • Shower of Angst: James takes one with his full uniform and equipment on after the gun battle in which Eldridge is wounded
  • Spiritual Successor: James Cameron called it "this generation's Platoon"
  • Star-Making Role: For Jeremy Renner.
  • Street Urchin: Beckham.
  • Survivors Guilt: Expected, what with it being a war film. Eldridge is this in trumps, as he holds himself responsible for Thompson's death, and later feels the same when Cambridge is killed with an IED; since he requested Cambridge observe what they do, Eldridge rushes into the dust cloud where Cambridge was and starts calling his name in the hope he's alive.
  • Tastes Like Friendship: After co-operating to kill the sniper, James passes a container of juice to Sanborn before drinking from it himself. The team finally starts to bond together after this.
  • Unfriendly Fire/The Uriah Gambit: Sanborn and Eldridge contemplate "accidentally" detonating an explosive to kill James, but decide against it.
  • The War on Terror: The film's setting.
  • War Is Hell: Though James would disagree.
  • Wire Dilemma: Averted, every bomb has a single wire running from the explosive to the detonator; the hard part is finding the detonator.
    • Subverted, in the scene where James drags a whole nest of artillery shells out of the road by pulling on the wires. a 155mm shell weighs about 45kg. A short while before, he is shown removing the same detonators using his finger and thumb.
    • Also lampshaded in a poster.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Eldridge SNAPS at James after the failed attempt to go find the market bombers. Rightfully so, since he's heavily wounded and possibly crippled.

Hulk Vs.Films of 2005 - 2009 I Love You Beth Cooper
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alternative title(s): The Hurt Locker
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