Movie: The Hurt Locker (2008) Oscar Throwback

My Thoughts While Watching:

So I am combining two things here: Women In History and Oscar History.  The Hurt Locker was directed by Kathryn Bigelow and went on to win the Oscar in 2009.  I wanted to watch this Oscar Winner first because Kathryn Bigelow won in the category of Best Director, making her the first (and as of last Sunday) and only female director to win the that category.  I had not seen the movie, nor had I read up on Bigelow.  In reading a number of her bios, they mention that she is a talented painter.  She was once set up in an offtrack betting building, in it’s old vault, and she would paint there.  I wonder if her eye for painting makes her a better director because she has a more unique inner view of what she wants the visual aspect of the movie to become?  There were moments in the film, the small “not part of the movie” details that stood out for me, I can in retrospect see her artist mind “painting” the scene.  She breaks the stereotype I had in my head of what I thought women would want to direct (kudos), by looking at her IMDB page you can scroll through her numerous action/adventure movies. Not a single romcom in the mix.  Kudos.

There were close to 4,500 military deaths in Iraq.  I always have a hard time with movies and documentaries that are filmed on the subject.  Maybe it is because of being alive (and more politically aware) through it and seeing endless media coverage on the subject.  I don’t know.  I do know that I cringe through a lot of it.  War is senseless, I will leave it at that.  Also, when I say that I love a good “war movie” it is usually in regards to movies that I watched with my Grandfather and the association I have with his liking those particular films.

This movie starts out in Baghdad in 2004 with a remote android making its way through a crowded street to a pile of what seems like just bags, goats run past, life is busy and moves along and pays no attention to the explosives that will eventually take the life of a soldier.  There are 38 days left in Bravo Company’s rotation.  After the death of their fellow bomb squad soldier, a replacement arrives in the form of Jeremy Renner’s character Staff Sgt James.  Right off the bat you feel that he is tightly wound.  He goes on to prove that throughout the movie with actions that are dangerous and borderline renegade.

In this movie, you can see Bigelow, “the artist”, coming through.  I noticed (prior to reading her bios) the attention to small details that she placed in the movie: a cat with a broken foot hobbles down the street, a stuffed heart hangs from a high wire, eyelashes you can see through the scope of a rifle, a camel hanging from the review mirror of the DVD seller’s truck. Those small details that add reinforcement that life in this arid community will continue to push on even in the face of constant death and military presence.

I wanted to think James was an utter ass throughout.  The movie tried to elicit the feeling that the war had hardened and triggered him even though he was a good person (post rotation we see him with his wife and child, during his initial rotation we see him go to extremes when they find the young market boy dead and his body being used as a bomb decoy, and even in small ways like how he tells Specialist Eldridge that he will make sure he is safe while out in the desert, under attack by the opposition).  In the end I felt horribly sorry for him because the military broke him down to fit into a mold that does not fit into regular society and he finds himself returning for another rotation where his fellow soldiers will understand him better. While watching Hostiles earlier this year, the end scene was inspired by a John Wayne in the last moment of “The Searchers,” when John Wayne lingers outside the door, symbolically barred from entering the civilized society he has saved.  That is the travesty of a great number of our military who return from active duty in which they saw serious action.  We break them to fit one mold and be damned if we help patch them back up to fit back where they truly belong.

I am trying to figure out the movie release parameters for the Oscars.  This movie is noted on IMDB as a 2008 release, it won Best Picture and Best Director during the Oscars that aired in 2010. A list of the winners from that night can be found on the Oscars page: HERE.  It was nominated for Best Actor (Jeremy Renner would lose to Jeff Bridges for his performance in Crazy Heart), Cinematography (it lost to Avatar), Directing (a win for Kathryn Bigelow), Film Editing (a win for Bob Murwaski and Chris Innis), Music-Original Score (lost to UP), Best Picture (it won), Sound Edit and Mix (it won) and Writing-Original Screenplay (it won).

The movies nominated in 2010 other than The Hurt Locker were:

  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • Inglorious Basterds
  • Precious
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up In The Air

Notable Interview:

IMDB Synopsis: During the Iraq War, a Sergeant recently assigned to an army bomb squad is put at odds with his squad mates due to his maverick way of handling his work.


Lead Actor: Jeremy Renner

Supporting Male: Anthony Mackie

Supporting Male: Brian Geraghty

Others of note:

Director: Kathryn Bigelow


1 Ugh – 2 Meh – 3 I don’t hate it? – 4 That was solid. – 5 Loved It!

Cinematography: 2 (to clarify – there are minute details that I thought were great but the overall feel (IMHO) was that the film had a washed out color to it)

Costume Design: 3

Film Editing: 4

Makeup and Hairstyling: 2

Music: 3

Production Design: 4

Sound Editing/Mixing: 3

Writing: 3

My Overall Score: 24 out of 40



Additional Movie Info:

It received a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97% Fresh.  It received a Rotten Tomato audience rating of 84% liking it.  Average Rating: 3.9/5 with a number of User Ratings: 95,397.

Movie Reviews:

Specs:  Release date: 31 July 2009 – then why does IMDB note it as a 2008 movie? (USA) / Runtime: 131 minutes / Budget: $15M

IMDB Trivia:

  • The film was shot on location in Jordan. Part of the shoot (one week) was to take place in Kuwait on a U.S. Military Base; however, access was denied.
  • The expression “the hurt locker” is a preexisting slang term for a situation involving trouble or pain, which can be traced back to the Vietnam War. According to the movie’s website, it is soldier vernacular in Iraq to speak of explosions as sending you to “the hurt locker.”
  • It was James Cameron who convinced his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow to direct this film. She originally had planned on doing another project and wasn’t sure about doing this film. Cameron read it and told her to do this film, and it ended up earning her an Oscar nomination and award for Best Director. In fact, the film was nominated in nine categories against Cameron’s Avatar (2009), and won six awards, including Best Picture. Cameron himself had said, “I wouldn’t bet against her.”
  • With a small $12 million domestic box office gross, this is the lowest grossing Best Picture winner ever since box office results were regularly counted even without adjusting for inflation. Best picture winners from the 1960s have even out grossed The Hurt Locker (2008) quite significantly. The film had actually closed by the time of the Oscars, which tend to boost the film’s numbers. It was the use of DVD screeners, rentals and significant campaigning that lead to its win for the prize over the highest grossing film of all time Avatar (2009).
  • Producer Nicolas Chartier caused a controversy in February 2010 by sending out emails to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members, requesting that they vote for this film for the Best Picture Academy Award, “not a ‘$500 million film,'” an obvious reference to Avatar (2009), another frontrunner for Best Picture. AMPAS rules prohibit members from sending mailings disparaging competing films. In the end, the Academy stopped short of denying Chartier from winning an Oscar, and instead revoked his invitation to the awards ceremony; he received his Best Picture Oscar afterwards.
  • The bomb disposal outfit worn by Jeremy Renner was authentic apparel
  • The three songs in the film by Ministry (Fear (Is A Big Business), Palestina, Khyber Pass) are from their tenth album, the politically driven Rio Grande Blood, which criticizes the war in Iraq and former President George W. Bush.
  • The 2014 Broadway revival of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” contains a running joke about how the stage and set were previously occupied by “The Hurt Locker: The Musical,” which was so terrible that it closed after only one night. The director was kind enough to loan Hedwig and her band the stage for one night only, before they packed it up. Later in the show, Hedwig gets a piece of paper stuck in her foot, which turns out to be sheet music for a song titled “When Love Explodes,” which is the love theme for “The Hurt Locker: The Musical.” She makes her husband Yitzhak perform it, but cuts him off before he can hit the last note as she is intimidated by his natural talent.
  • As of 2018, this film has won the most Academy Awards (six) by a Best Picture winning film ever since the increase in number of Best Picture nominated films to more than five for the 82nd Academy Awards.

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