Hurt Locker is an eloquently crafted film that proves how powerful images are. The camera techniques and the cinematography overall is what makes the Hurt Locker shine, in my opinion. To add to the visuals the story itself is engaging and very interesting.
The film centers around 3 soldiers in modern day Iraq. These soldiers are part of the elite Explosive Ordinance Disposal team and they are serving for the United States for the duration of a year. The film uses time as the guiding influence for the soldiers. In the beginning the typical soldier is excited and ready for war. For example Sergeant J. T. Sanborn is cautious, yet ready to continue living his life in Iraq. He wants no children because he doesn't want to be tied down. However, after he witnesses the daily struggles in Iraq along with the constant murders and deaths his character changes, and he develops an entire new outlook on life. Now he hates war and fears death. His eyes can speak for him:
The film shows how traumatizing war is and how it definitely isn't reserved for people with weakness. However, in contrast to this character, Sergeant First Class William James shows no true development as the film progresses, rather, bit by bit his true character is revealed. In the beginning of the film i pictured him as an arrogant man who only enjoys the excitement of war and cares about nothing else. As it turned out my view was true. The opening quote:
"The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug"
- Chris Hedges
fulling describes both characters. For Sergeant J. T. Sanborn war is lethal which is why he wants to escape and have a son. For Sergeant First Class William James war is an addiction, an addiction that he can't escape, nor wants to. This quote is the overarching theme of the entire film, but one can't become aware of it until the full movie is watched and understood.
The acting in "The Hurt Locker" is phenomenal. The characters are100% believable, so believable that i actually shared the emotions that they felt. I was able to sympathize with them and i actually cared about these characters. There was nothing artificial about them. For example, in the first screen shot Sergeant J. T. Sanborn's eyes reveal sincerity in him. The costumes themselves perfectly fit each scene, and this adds to the realism of the film. For example when the soldiers are in combat they are wearing regularly issued US Army Gear. When they are in their "homes" they are wearing more casual clothes:
This helps the audience understand that these soldiers aren't always in combat. They still perform everyday routines like every other person. The only difference is that they also risk their lives every day as well.
Now the Cinematographer did a remarkable job with the film. Every shot is carefully lit to and framed for the best effect. Also, in certain scenes several vantage points are shown for one moment in time.
These shots show the utter dismay of the bombing. The close of the dust and rust of the car shows how powerful the bomb is since it made the entire ground shake including the car. Then the mix of long, medium, and close shots of the character creates a surreal feeling. One wishes to believe that he incident is impossible, but the film states otherwise. It shows how these bombings occur everyday and it shows how must courage the soldiers have for actually handling or being near these explosives. It is breathtaking and horrible at the same time. Just like the following shot:
This shot is visually gorgeous, but it is also destructive. The fire of course is destroying the life in the area, yet the image has beauty to it. This paradox parallels how war can be both a horrid and dreadful place, but also a place where the person can escape to so that they don't have to deal with regular and boring routines every day. This idea of the boring life is shown at the end of the movie as the main character is seen back at home with his wife and child. He is in the grocery story and is contemplating a very odd choice.
It appears that he can't decide which cereal to choose from. This is quite ridiculous since at war he is used to making life and death decisions daily, but now that he has left war he can't make any simple decisions. The shot is purposefully mundane because it shows the effect war has on certain people. This soldier is so used to making life and death decisions that he has become incapable of making simple daily life decisions. This is because these simple decisions have no interest for him, they bring him no rush. This is why he chooses to go back and serve another year in the army.
The audience becomes somewhat understanding of why he chooses not to stay with his son, but to stay with his true love -- war.
Lighting also helped in adding suspense to some shots.
Here there is little lighting, and this adds mystery to the film. It also adds suspense because the audience wants to know what is happening in the film instead of the characters being concealed by the shadows. Something else to be noted is the depth of field. In almost every single shot in the film there is a lot of depth of field. Perhaps this is done to show vast the setting of Iraq is. In the shot above the depth of field shows a lot of spacial distance. Maybe this was done to convey how far away help is in war. There is a large amount of distance that people must travel before they can help other soldiers. This is since Iraq is such a vast, open, and somewhat remote area. There is a lot of solitude.
Now the editing wasn't really ground breaking or anything. But that is okay because the editing remained simple and clear which allowed for a better understand of the film. It allows the audience to focus on the visuals longer since not many cuts took place. The shots were held for long periods of time, and this allows for a dramatic feel. Only the action shots were really cut fast but that is standard for action shots.
Now, the score of the film was indeed incredible. The Sound effects created an authentic feel of the setting of Iraq. The music helped communicate whatever tones the director intended in whatever shot sequence. However, ambiance was the main music. This added to the realism of the film which i enjoyed quite a lot. It makes the movie, and the situations in the movie much more believable and authentic. Of course, the authenticity is only present because the plot of the movie is so well written.
The movie isn't propelled in a typical fashion where "a" and "b" happens and the result is "c." Rather, the movie cycles through a 365 day period and within this period events are shown that correlate what would happen on a regular day in Iraq. Every day there are bombings, every day there is death. The movie is somewhat repetitive in this sense. This repetitiveness is created to communicate that there is always constant death in war. Death is part of every soldier's daily routine. They fear it, but expect it. This is quite a frightening way of life, but this is their way of life. Their lives make up the plot. And since the events are all plausible, the movie appears to be somewhat of a documentary of life in Iraq. This is supported at the end of the film. When Sergeant James takes another 365 day journey, it can be expected that his 365 period will be just like his previous 365 day period -- exciting, wonderful, and horrid. The Hurt Locker shows the beauty of war, but most importantly, the destructiveness and presence of death in war.