Oscar watch: ‘Hurt Locker’ documents our generation’s war

By Patrick Wagner

“The Hurt Locker”

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty

Directed by:… “The Hurt Locker”

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty

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Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

Grade: A-

A defining moment in the legacy of any armed conflict is the apparition of a war film dealing with the upheaval.

With Korea there was “M.A.S.H.,” with Vietnam, a slew of films including the classics “Apocalypse Now!” and “The Deer Hunter” and with the first Gulf War, the terribly underrated “Three Kings.”

With the incredible emotional involvement of the United States’ latest conflicts, a film like “The Hurt Locker” was due.

This hard-boiled thriller about a U.S. bomb disposal unit in Iraq isn’t about victory or defeat, but the human casualties created among American troops.

The film follows the actions of an E.O.D. (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team and its attempts to disarm enemy explosives while trying to survive the last weeks of deployment.

When met by its brash new commander, Staff Sgt. William James (played with tasteful insanity by Jeremy Renner), the team members, consisting of Sgt. Sanborn, Specialist Eldridge and others, move through a series of events that have serious consequences both for their particular detachment and for themselves.

Though seemingly always bold in the face of danger, James’ confidence turns suicidal when a local boy he has befriended goes missing.

Acting on his gut, he finds himself in the middle of Baghdad and barely escapes what would be self-inflicted death.

Tensions rise within the team and James’ attitude conflicts with the desire of both Sanborn and Eldridge to get home.

With the team decimated — emotionally and physically — James and Sanborn undertake a final mission as an unwilling hostage comes to a U.S. military checkpoint asking for help to remove the bomb that terrorists have strapped to his body.

James attempts to disarm the explosive device but is unable to help the man. Instead, he gets hit with pavement fragments kicked up by the blast of the man’s chest-strapped bomb.

Sent home to safety, James finds himself unsatisfied, and the film ends with his grinning on a military tarmac, once again in Iraq.

Other films have attempted to create patriotic paragons or purely anti-war meatheads, but “The Hurt Locker” attempts to simply tell the story of real people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, and it succeeds beautifully.

James isn’t an easy character to understand, but that realistic characterization plays into the reality that “The Hurt Locker” tries to demonstrate.

The realism that the film has been touted for is, if anything, an understatement. The atmosphere is overwhelming, with each shot looking more like Iraq than even what Iraq might very well look like.

Every frame acts as a detailed portrait, and down to the smallest component, the production is incredible.

Perhaps being too much of a good thing, the pacing in certain parts could improve to keep the action high, but this remains unnoticeable for the most part.

In a year with multiple films deserving of accolades, “The Hurt Locker” takes an original and artistically rich look at a current crucible of humanity.

Although we will have to see if this is the greatest war movie, it certainly is a candidate.