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Clara Youens

Edward R. Murrow High School, Freshman

REVIEW | The Hurt Locker (2008) directed by Kathryn Bigelow

In The Hurt Locker, director Kathryn Bigelow sets the story with characters carrying out their duties as soldiers during the Iraq war. Right from the start, Bigelow throws the characters into the turmoil of wartime. As the film progresses, the intensity and uncertainty of what will happen next captures the full attention of the audience. What makes this film so great is that unlike other films, Bigelow shows her audience what war is really like through intense scenes, sound effects, and costume choices.

Bigelow uses the feeling of intensity as an element in her film to show what war is like. One of the moments in the film where this really stands out is when a civilian has a bomb strapped to his body with heavy-duty locks. Jeremy Renner’s character, Sergeant William James, and his fellow soldiers do their best to clip the locks before the countdown ends and the bomb explodes. During this scene, the camera cuts back and forth between the numbers winding down to zero on the bomb and James struggling to open the lock. To add to the edge-of-your-seat feeling, the victim is shaking with fear and desperately praying, almost begging, for mercy. It takes more time than they can afford to clip the first lock, and the camera is so focused on that moment that when it finally gets clipped, a feeling of relief washes over the audience. The relief is only temporary, as the bomb won’t come off and the camera cuts over to the other side of the man who has another heavy duty lock firmly attaching the bomb to his body. Another intense moment in the film is when Renner’s character disables several large bombs from the trunk of a car. His teammates, Eldridge and Sanborn, act as lookouts while James examines the car for the triggering device. To add to the intensity, James takes off his bomb suit, knowing he will be unprotected if the bombs go off. He also removes his communication device when Sanborn tries to talk to him. The camera follows James as he turns the car inside out searching for the wire he can disable the bomb with. The camera captures some nice point-of-view shots as James tears the car apart. Bigelow uses intensity by putting the characters in real warlike positions where the outcome is unknown.

The Hurt Locker, Jeremy Renner

Another way Bigelow makes this film great is by using convincing sound effects. In a war movie, it’s important to have good sound effects to make the audience feel exhilarated and convinced, since the most horrific parts of a war are not only what you see but what you hear. When James and his teammates and their newfound British mercenary allies are attacked by the mercenary’s captives, many gunshots are fired. The camera cuts back and forth between the American soldiers firing their guns and their escaped captives firing their weapons as well. Shot after shot is fired, with no other additional sound. This makes the sounds louder and unexpected. It’s unexpected because in some shots, the camera is not facing the direction of which group is shooting. The gunshots are expected but the numbers of gunshots, and from who, is not. Bigelow also makes the bomb explosions loud and clear. Although it doesn’t leave the ringing in your ears as an explosion would, she makes the sound sharp and long lasting to convey a similar effect. This is shown when the civilian with a timer bomb strapped to his chest gets blown up and in the beginning when James’ predecessor dies in an explosion. Overall, Bigelow tries to show her audience that war is loud, and by doing so she shows her audience what war is really like.

In addition to the intensity and sounds of the film, Bigelow uses costumes to convey her wartime story. Throughout most of the movie the team wears army uniforms. This consists of boots, camouflage, and guns slung over their shoulders. The costume changes when disabling a bomb and the character has to wear a bomb suit. Renner’s character wears this suit when he begins to disable the bombs in a car. Thompson wears this suit when he goes to fix their robotic mechanism. Since this movie takes place in Iraq, there are civilians wandering the streets. Their clothing is a little ragged from use. Some wear long robes. When Renner’s character returns home, he no longer wears his uniform and switches back to regular clothes. His family also dresses in casual clothing. Bigelow keeps the characters in uniform most of the time because the film is about being a soldier and when you are a soldier you’re on duty practically all the time.

The Hurt Locker is a film about the war in Iraq. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this film is among the best war films because she shows her audience the lives of men in war. One way she does this is through deeply intense scenes with activated countdown bombs, and disabling bombs while having the camera cut back and forth at a quick rate. She uses loud, clear sound effects for explosions and gunshots that leave the audience amazed and horrified. Through costume choice, Bigelow shows the basic daily wardrobe of what soldiers wear. All these aspects add up to creating a story where war is shown harsh and raw. This movie has had a huge impact on me, because many war stories today carry an element of fantasy. Those stories are not real; it’s a war between supernatural beings. I believe this unintentionally gives people a sense of comfort because it’s unrealistic. Bigelow’s film shows war as it is: real, hardcore, and down to earth.