UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Courtesy of First Light Production

The Hurt Locker

Tensions are high in this film about bomb experts in Iraq

By Jocelyn Bell

The Hurt Locker
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty
(First Light Production)

At a U.S. Army base in Iraq, two soldiers meet their new team leader, Staff Sgt. James — a replacement for their previous leader, killed by a handmade explosive. The trio will spend the last 39 days of their rotation disarming bombs in the heat of combat, knowing that a single mistake could cost them their lives.

In what has been called the best film about the war in Iraq, The Hurt Locker eschews the hallmarks of American war movies. You’ll find no crescendo to a great and decisive battle scene; no patriotic background music as heroic characters rise to victory.

Rather, it’s just three guys defusing bombs that pop up like weeds. Their actions won’t make or break the war; their morals won’t triumph. All they’ll do is try to survive a war that feels chaotic, futile and dangerous — incredibly dangerous.

Director Kathryn Bigelow is a pro at building tension. A friendly Iraqi could be a suicide bomber; a cellphone could detonate an explosion; someone watching the soldiers from a rooftop could be an insurgent. Hand-held camera work, used during the most nerve-wracking scenes, makes the viewer feel as nervous as the bomb techs.

Bigelow layers tension upon tension: Staff Sgt. James is reckless about his safety — and that of his subordinates. A desert renegade, he takes increasing risks in pursuit of an adrenalin fix. Dismantling bombs that fill the trunk of a parked car, James removes his protective gear and tosses off his headset. “There’s enough bang in there to blow us all to Jesus. If I’m gonna die, I want to die comfortable,” he says.

There’s a moment where Sgt. James softens, and the team finally gels. But the catastrophic events that follow  warp him to such a degree that the only thing left is adrenalin.

As the days tick down to the end of the company’s rotation, the question isn’t just whether these three soldiers will live, but whether they’ll survive with their humanity intact.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

by Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

Promotional Image


Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Two nurses tackle Vancouver's opioid crisis

Richard Moore is a resident of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In this poignant interview, he explains the important work of nurses Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles.

Promotional Image


July 2018

250 United Church leaders have a message for Doug Ford

by Emma Prestwich

They're urging the new Ontario premier to remember those in need as he carries out promised economic reform.


July 2018

Tracing Nelson Mandela’s path a century after his birth

by Tim Johnson

A travel writer visits some of the places that shaped the anti-apartheid icon’s life.


July 2018

Jamil Jivani sheds light on why young men radicalize

by Suzanne Bowness

In his book 'Why Young Men,' Jamil Jivani talks about his own experience as a troubled youth.

Promotional Image