The movie focuses on the task of disarming IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in and around the Iraqi front line. As we watch the main characters rove around the city from assignment to assignment you really do get an appreciation for what these men and women are going through in Iraq and the sacrifice they make to serve their country. Some of it is fascinating but in the end the film seems to drag on at times. I think the biggest drawback of the movie is that I saw this after having seen Generation Kill on HBO. The Gulf War miniseries was shot with a very similar handheld documentary style and also was effective at making the war seem very real. I enjoyed the camaraderie and characters better in Generation Kill and this movie seemed almost like an afterthought compared to the epic arc that HBO put forth last summer.
A reader of this blog made a point to claim that this movie is superior to District 9. I would have to strongly disagree with that statement based on sheer originality alone. Yes, The Hurt Locker did take an interesting twist on the Middle East conflict by focusing on an EOD squadron. But for the most part it seemed to be a follow-on episode of Generation Kill.
For those of you who have seen this movie and haven't seen the HBO miniseries, I recommend renting it to get a broader more entertaining look at the war. As a stand-alone effort though, The Hurt Locker is well crafted and earns a 3.5 out of 5 JR rating from me. I almost gave it a 4 simply because the sniper scene in the middle of the movie is so well done.
If I hadn't already seen Generation Kill I probably would have boosted the rating by a full point. That being said, District 9 is still the most original and thought provoking movie in years and if you're reading this and still haven't seen it, get to the theater soon before its release is finished.