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Hurt Locker, The


Stars: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Christian Camargo, Evangeline Lilly, Christopher Sayegh, Guy Pearce

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

The work of bomb disposal squads, with its built-in suspense, has been surprisingly neglected by the movies. One remembers the old TV series Danger UXB but little else.

With so many British soldiers being killed in Afghanistan by roadside bombs, the subject could not be more timely, and director Bigelow redresses a little of the balance in its neglect, with this rather long film, set in Iraq but made in Jordan, which underlines the stresses involves, as well as the additional pressures of intense heat and combating an often unseen enemy.

A close-knit trio, Sgt Thompson (a briefly impressive Pearce), Sanborn (Mackie) and Eldridge (Geraghty), is fractured when Thompson, the bomb disposal man, loses his life in an explosion.

Newcomer to the group is the maverick Will James (Renner, first-class), an Afghanistan veteran who, it turns out, has already disarmed 863 bombs. James's devil-may-care attitudes soon put his partners' backs up, although his seemingly cavalier methods do prove effective. What he does at the end, though, in hunting for insurgents, is plain silly.

By and large, the imminent danger, with death a constant companion, is as well captured as could possibly be, with enough action, too, to satisfy the most avid war fan, even if some of it is necessarily repetitious.

David Morse and Ralph Fiennes make small appearances, but it's Renner who dominates a film so intense and atmospheric you can feel the dust and sand in your mouth. But I have no idea why it's called The Hurt Locker.

David Quinlan

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Optimum/Lionsgate. Fujicolor.
131 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 22 Aug 2009