The Hurt Locker (2009)


From above a flat. and dry desert floor, a person in a green military uniform with heavy padding holds red wires attached to seven pill-shaped bomb canisters scattered around him. At the top of the poster are three critics' favorable opinions: "A near-perfect movie", "A full-tilt action picture", and "Ferociously suspenseful". Below the quotes is the title "THE HURT LOCKER" and the tagline, "You don't have to be a hero to do this job. But it helps."

Like most people, I was entirely unaware of Jeremy Renner’s existence for a long time, and then suddenly he was everywhere.  He was Hawkeye, then he was in that other action movie, and the fairy tale one, then he was Hawkeye again…  Basically my knowledge base of cinema comes from comic book movies.  Here’s apparently where it all started.

So, okay, Jeremy Renner.  By the time he comes on the scene in The Hurt Locker, we’ve already encountered the classic war movie tropes of “soldiers demonstrate how Real they are by talking about their dicks” and “soldiers chat about something innocuous just before somebody bites it.”  Maybe that’s the same thing.  Then in comes the guy who isn’t a team player.

I had trouble enjoying this movie because I hated Renner’s character so much.  He’s good in the role, and meant to be unlikeable – the maverick who’s so caught up in his own experience that he ignores the needs of his fellow soldiers.  But that’s the problem – he may be good at defusing bombs, but he’s a terrible commanding officer.  So many of his decisions seem based not even on seeking adventure, but of recklessly challenging death, like he’s on a suicide mission that he repeatedly fails.

And sure, I’ve definitely enjoyed a few unlikeable, self-destructive characters in my day.  Dr. House.  Starbuck.  Sherlock.  I try to avoid such people in real life because, I’ve come to find, if someone is an asshole, it really doesn’t matter how smart or talented they are.  Jerks can certainly be successful, but in real life, I think they’re more tolerated than admired.

If you’ve followed this blog from the beginning, you may recall that I first planned to do this Oscar-movie-watching exercise a couple years ago.  So I watched this film once before.  Though I recalled some of the tenser moments – the long wait in the desert for the snipers, the bizarre trip off-base that still doesn’t entirely make sense – I couldn’t remember how it actually ended.  And now I realize why:  because it kind of doesn’t.  It’s less a movie about change or even self-realization than it is a character study.  Renner starts out a particular way, which is further revealed to us in a series of vignettes, and he survives to do it all over again.  There’s a quote at the beginning of the picture that says “war is a drug.”  I guess that’s really what addiction is, put simply, doing something that’s not good for you because you can’t help yourself.

So we come to the end of the cruelest month, and the cruelest topic.  Next month, I’ll try to return to sappy musicals and slapstick comedies.  I’ll be taking a bit of a break next week, but I’m excited about my next theme month, scheduled for June!  Stay tuned.


Theme:  War

Which War:  Iraqi Freedom

First Time Watching?  No, I watched this once before

Final Verdict:  A once-in-a-lifetime experience



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