The Hurt Locker (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Jeff Gerheiser

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Plot: What’s it about?

Since the Iraq War began, numerous films have been made regarding the subject. However, none that I have seen are truly as gripping or as powerful as The Hurt Locker. It tells the story of an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit in Iraq and centers around their new leader, Sergeant James, who seems to embody four words from a quote that opens the movie: war is a drug. A drug indeed, and one that James doesn?t want to put down.

Sergeant James is played by Jeremy Renner in an intense performance that was recently rewarded with an Academy Award nomination. His recklessness and stubbornness puts his two teammates, Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Spc. Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) in constant danger. With Sgt. James replacing their recently deceased unit leader, and having only a few weeks remaining in their tour, Sanborn and Eldridge are eager to finish their war duties. Sgt. James, however, throws it all into jeopardy, and thus arises conflict between the headstrong Sanborn and, as an officer calls him, “wild man” James.

I call this film the best movie that no one saw from 2009. In terms of an entire package, The Hurt Locker has it all except one thing: big name billing. None of the three lead actors are common names in Hollywood, which is probably why it made less than $13 million in the theaters. Yet with this film now on DVD and Blu-ray, and as it garners multiple trophies in the award circuit, now is a great time to catch on to one of the better movies of the past decade.

At the helm is director Kathryn Bigelow, which may come as a surprise to some as the cast is mostly male in a modern day war picture. Bigelow wisely sidestepped the heavy use of special effects, and the result is a very personalized film that lends itself a documentary feel. On top of that are multiple bomb-diffusing scenes that would make Hitchcock proud, as Bigelow masters the art of suspense on the battlefield. One of the best shots in the film is one that always gets audiences clenching their teeth: Sgt. James has properly ended a bomb scare, yet moments later, he discovers many more bombs in a circular pattern nearby. As he tugs on some wires and the bombs surface, we may finally realize that the danger in Iraq is very, very real. Despite that, Sgt. James treats his job as an art, and as risky as that art may be, any fears he could possibly have are hidden away, much like how he collects bomb parts from missions and hides them away in his quarters.

Bigelow mirrors this, as her job as director is to handle the risky art of an Iraq war film driven by characters and suspense alike. The risk was certainly worth it. The Hurt Locker is a great movie now, and I can very well see it being named as a great war movie years later.

Video: How does it look?

“The Hurt Locker” comes to Blu-ray in a very unique-looking 1.78:1 AVC HD transfer. As one might imagine, the entire palette is endowed with plenty of earthy tones and brown and tans dominate most every scene. The film is also shot in a “documentary like” look and feel with quick handheld camera movements. Elementes do appear on the screen that are grainy, though I think that it works here. We feel the grit and grain on most of the scenes and it gives it a more naturalistic tone. If you’re looking for a knock out transfer, try one of Disney’s Pixar movies, but if you’re looking for something realistic, this is it.

Audio: How does it sound?

In a movie based on the diffusing of bombs, we might expect one or two to actually go off in the course of the film. We’d be correct. The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack does a very nice job of handling the LFE and manages to give the surrounds and front channels plenty of time to chime in as well. Dialogue is a bit muddy at times as some of the actors tend to mumble, but again it’s consistent with the theme of the movie. While there are certainly better uncompressed tracks out there, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that’s more on the level than this one.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Included in the set of extras is an audio commentary by director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, an image gallery of production stills (which can be played either with the film’s score or a recording of the Q & A with Boal and Bigelow from the Institute of Contemporary Art in London), and a 12 minute behind the scenes feature including interviews with, again, Boal and Bigelow as well as several of the actors.

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