By Guest Writer
on 6.29.09

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By Gear Patrol Reader Philippe Iujvidin:

The Hurt Locker is the latest in a batch of Iraq War films; Jarhead, The Kingdom, Rendition, and Stop-Loss are others that come to mind. The Hurt Locker can be only loosely tied to these other films, as the only thing they really share in common is the setting.

The Hurt Locker is not a war film. It’s a character piece set in a war. Get the rest of the details after the jump.

Kathryn Bigelow, most notably of Point Break fame (for me at least), directs one of the most realistic, thrilling, and bowel-wrenching war films in recent memory. Jeremy Renner doesn’t play Staff Sergeant William James, he is Sgt. James. I was lucky enough to attend a screening of the film which featured a Q&A with Renner after the film, moderated by Sam Rockwell(!). During said Q&A, Renner remarked that he’s spent 37 years preparing to play this character, and it shows.

Silly me, getting all ahead of myself. Some of you probably want to know what this movie is about (Very minor spoilers ahead. They’re more like spoilerettes). The film opens in the midst of the Iraq War, circa 2004. The viewer is introduced to Bravo Company, a division tasked with EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal), who has mere weeks remaining on their tour of duty. Due to a series of unfortunate events, which occur during a kick-ass sequence, Bravo Company is left without a leader. Cue Mr. Renner.

hurt-locker-photoRenner’s Sgt. James is a man in pain, who for better or worse is a virtuoso at disarming explosives. He takes that pain with him everywhere, especially when working, as it’s quite apparent that he doesn’t give a shit whether he lives or dies. James is at once wholly in control of his surroundings while, at the same time, being emotionally vulnerable to a degree to which you hurt for him. Since we’re given a very fleeting glimpse at James’ life away from war, we’re forced to fill in the gaps. The director forces the viewer to write James’ backstory for himself. What kind of person chooses to put themselves in such a position as James. (The EOD is a voluntary division of the military)? Expounding on that, what kind of person chooses to do such so recklessly?

Let me briefly mention the sniper sequence. For those who have seen it, I’ll give you a moment to catch your breath. For those who haven’t, just be prepared and bring a towel to clean up the puddle of sweat pooling under your ass.

The thing Bigelow does so well is to convey the feeling that no one really knows who the enemy is. Sure, that guy over there has a gun and is probably dangerous, but what about the shady looking kid on a bike up the street? What about that guy perched up on a roof videotaping me? Who should I be worried about? Everything about this film heightens that feeling of suspicion and uneasiness. The music cues, the cuts, the pacing and, of course, the brilliant acting.

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A few choice tidbits from the Q&A:

The film was shot in Jordan without any assistance from the U.S. government. Evidently the DoD wants final approval on any movie they’re a part of, so Bigelow decided to go at it alone.

Over 1 million feet of film was shot! 1 million! Renner said, “we shot 10 movies.”

Many of the big battle sequences were set up with four cameras pointed at the action, all rolling simultaneously. Renner said nothing was rehearsed and the cast didn’t even know where the cameras were set up. They just ran through it as if it were real.

Best part of the Q&A: Some nerdy kid gets called on to ask a question; this is what he said, verbatim: “Thank you guys for coming out ,but this question, actually the next few questions hehe, are for Mr. Rockwell.”

(Awkward pause.)

“I noticed you’re growing a beard and a mustache, is this in preparation for your roll as Justin Hammer for Iron Man 2? “

(Another awkward pause.)

Sam Rockwell: “Does anyone else have a question?”

Verdict: See this movie. I’ve never been in the military, mostly because my mom won’t let me, but this feels real. It feels like someone set up some cameras in the middle of Baghdad and just said, “Do what you do, guys.”

Find this movie. For now, watch the trailer below.

About the author:I’m a Los Angeles native. I graduated from CSUN in 2006 with a B.A. in screenwriting and I’ve been working in the industry ever since. I worked on 1 vs. 100, Deal or No Deal, Big Brother, Season 5 of Las Vegas, The first and last season of The Starter Wife, a couple of pilots, reshoots for a movie called State of Play, and I’m currently working as an assistant Production Coordinator on a TV show called Hawthorne for TNT. You can connect with or rant at me directly via Twitter.