The Hurt Locker

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"Hurt" might be an understatement.
The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.
Chris Hedges

A 2009 film directed by Kathryn Bigelow that chronicles the lives of three U.S. soldiers in Iraq: Sergeant First Class James William (Jeremy Renner), Sergeant Sanborn and Specialist Eldridge. They make up an explosives ordnance disposal team (essentially a bomb squad).

The film is done in the same vein as Generation Kill and has a minor amount of Jittercam for flavor. It does not address the ever-controversial politics of the war, instead focusing on the day-to-day lives of the characters. Critically acclaimed to the point of apoplexy, it still suffered theatrically due the trend of audiences steering clear of war movies during wartime. The Hurt Locker outperformed nearly the entire War On Terror film genre, notably drawing in a larger audience than other acclaimed films such as such as Stop-Loss and The Valley of Elah. Veterans who have seen the movie tend to complain about the liberties taken with EOD policy, but tend to agree that it captures the emotional and psychological effect of War in general (and the Iraq War in particular) like no other film.

Winner of six Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay (by Mark Boal), Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow), and Best Picture. Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director—and she beat out her former husband and director extraordinaire James Cameron, to boot.

It holds the dubious distinction of being the least-attended best picture Oscar winner on record.

The Hurt Locker was named to the National Film Registry in 2020.

Tropes used in The Hurt Locker include:
  • The Ace: Deconstructed with James. He's good at everything... that has to do with defusing bombs. Everything else he fails at.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The sniper stand-off. Fantastic not just for the scene itself, but because it's a quiet drama scene that still involves armed combat.
    • Sanborn's Heroic BSOD scene is the more traditional variety.
  • Anti-Hero: Sergeant James is a Type IV.
  • Anyone Can Die: Invoked, what with the movie's random killing off of major actors, but it doesn't actually follow through on killing off any of the main characters.
  • Armor Is Useless: You're in close proximity to a bomb. If it goes off, regardless of range, you're going to be maimed. This is why James' predecessor died, despite being a ways away from the bomb. James actually invokes it at one point, ditching his suit to more easily work on a bomb that is the size of the car trunk it's placed in; there's no point to wearing it in the situation.
    • However, the armor proves NOT to be useless when James fails to disarm the bomb that's been strapped to the unfortunate civilian. He doesn't get far enough away before the explosion to avoid getting blasted from his feet and pelted with debris, but he does survive.
  • Badass: Many of the characters, but James most of all.
    • Badass Crew: They gather around stuff that can blow up you, me, and everyone. Bravo EOD team is badass, without question.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Massively, surprisingly, and pleasantly subverted. Sgt. Sanborn actually survives to the end of Bravo company's rotation, in spite of his new Cowboy Cop boss.
  • Cold Sniper: Sanborn, or at least he tries to be. Given that his MOS doesn't involve sniping human targets and the extra environmental and stress factors involved therein, he improvises pretty well.
  • The Collector of the Strange: The collection of detonation fuses of the various bombs James has disarmed over his career, which he keeps in his locker. It's the movie's eponymous Hurt Locker, though there isn't an actual Title Drop.
  • Colonel Kilgore: James.
  • Death by Cameo: Guy Pearce (Sergeant Thompson) and Ralph Fiennes.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Sgt. Thompson. He's killed in the first scene and replaced by the real protagonist, James.
  • Desk Jockey: Colonel Cambridge. A Justified Trope, in that he's a counselor. He finally gets out once to try and help Eldridge, who is on the edge, but gets blown to pieces.
  • Foreshadowing: Eldridge saying "I don't like to get shot."
  • Glory Hound: James, to an extent. Sanborn contemplates killing him for it.
  • Good-Looking Privates
  • Harmful to Minors: Poor Beckham...
  • Heroic BSOD: Experienced by all three characters to varying degrees. Obviously, it's a war film.
    • James is obviously on the edge and suffering from one when he is placed in Bravo.
    • Sanborn holds it together longer, but he finally breaks down when watching James' carefree recklessness reminds him of his own mortality, and that no one but his parents would miss him or care he was gone since he doesn't have a son to remember him like James does.
    • Eldridge could be the poster-boy for this trope; he suffers a minor but long-lasting BSOD when he fails to make a shot that would've saved Sergeant Thompson, prompting Cambridge to come see him regularly. He finds Cambridge to be a nice guy and genuinely helpful, but comments that Cambridge suffers from a case of good intentions, and that he can only help to a point as long as he's behind a desk and unable to relate to actual combat experience. This causes Cambridge to join the team on a run, where he is killed by an IED; needless to say, Eldridge doesn't react well to seeing the man who's helped him get through his tough time blown to pieces, and the fact that it's technically his own fault certainly doesn't help. And then he's nearly abducted by insurgents, but even saved, has a gunshot wound and six months of physical therapy to look forward to before he can walk again. His reaction to the final event involves much more outright anger than the other problems, but the extent to which he's broken is no less obvious for the lack of tears.
  • Ironic Echo: When Sanborn and Eldridge consider killing James in what would look like accident, Eldridge says that "all they'd find would be his helmet." When Cambridge steps on a bomb, all they find left of him is... his helmet.
  • Jittercam: Not only does it shake, but it keeps zooming in and out at whipping velocities.
  • Kick the Dog: Ralph Fiennes's character only seems concerned with collecting the bounties on the heads of his captured insurgents, which is apparently so the audience doesn't feel so bad when he dies.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: James, after the nighttime market bombing. Sanborn and Eldridge call him on it, but as he outranks them there's nothing they can do.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: Ends up with Eldridge getting shot, his thighbone fractured in nine places, and him being (rightfully) extremely angry at James for chasing after imaginary insurgents for his "adrenaline fix" and almost getting dragged away by real insurgents as a result.
  • Married to the Job: James.
  • Meaningful Name: Colonel Cambridge, a highly educated but out-of-touch psychiatrist who spends most of his time doing desk work. Also, William James, for whom bomb disarmament seems to be a variety of religious experience.
  • Mildly Military: James wouldn't get away with the crap he pulls, but seeing as his "Company" is woefully understaffed and he's the one in charge, he does.
  • Military Maverick: This film works as a deconstruction of this trope. James' unorthodox and reckless tactics nearly get everyone killed multiple times (especially early on in the movie), and seem shocking rather than cool and badass. The toll it takes on his sanity seems to be quite high.
  • Mood Whiplash: There's a scene where Eldridge, in the midst of being med-evaced, cusses James out with great bitterness and then immediately has a big smile and brotherly words for Sanborn. With no pause in between.
  • Morality Pet: Beckham, for James.
  • No Ending: Days Left in Delta Company's Rotation: 365. Open to interpretation; could be a happy ending since James is doing what he loves, could be a Downer Ending because he's lost himself in war.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: An officer insists that an Iraqi prisoner of war is "not going to make it." When the scene cuts away, a gunshot is audible.
  • Only Sane Man: Sanborn.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Tragically and realistically averted. Sergeant Thompson tries to run out of the bomb's killzone, but he doesn't get far enough. Unusual for this trope, the concussive force of the bomb kills him rather than the fireball.
  • Overt Operative: Deconstructed for the terrible idea trying to act like 007 in reality is; when James attempts this to find information on Beckham's killers, he doesn't just fail, he fails spectacularly, with punctuation.
  • Private Military Contractors: Ralph Fiennes and his team of bounty hunters. They die.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: James and Sanborn.
  • Riding Into the Sunset: Evoked by the cinematography, but cruelly subverted.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Subverted. James tries to go on one after Beckham's death. His actions get him nowhere except confusing a local teacher and pissing off his wife, and very nearly in trouble. The second time he tries it in the aftermath of a particularly vicious bombing run on the market, he nearly gets Eldridge killed/captured.
  • Room Full of Crazy: His fellow soldiers react to James' collection of bomb fuses this way. More like a "box full of crazy", but the principle's the same. They're all drunk, however.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Guy Pierce's character is in the film only to set the mood early and to explain why James has transferred into the squad.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: All three protagonists: James already is one when he appears, Eldridge is one from the second scene and onwards, and while Sanborn holds out until later in the film, he falls into this too.
  • Shower of Angst: James takes one with his full uniform and equipment on after the gun battle in which Eldridge is wounded.
  • Spiritual Successor: James Cameron called it "this generation's Platoon".
  • Street Urchin: Beckham.
  • Tastes Like Friendship: After co-operating to kill the sniper, James passes a container of juice to Sanborn before drinking from it himself. The team finally starts to bond together after this.
  • Unfriendly Fire/The Uriah Gambit: Sanborn and Eldridge contemplate "accidentally" detonating an explosive to kill James, but decide against it.
  • War Is Hell: Though James would disagree.
  • The War on Terror: The film's setting.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Eldridge SNAPS at James after the failed attempt to go find the market bombers. Rightfully so, since he's heavily wounded and possibly crippled.
  • Wire Dilemma: Averted, every bomb has a single wire running from the explosive to the detonator, the hard part is finding the detonator.
    • Subverted, in the scene where James drags a whole nest of artillery shells out of the road by pulling on the wires. a 155mm shell weighs about 45kg. A short while before, he is shown removing the same detonators using his finger and thumb.
    • Also lampshaded in a poster.