The Hurt Locker is a modern war film directed by Kathryn Bigelow in 2009. The film won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, among many others.
Set during the Iraq War, the plot follows an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team that rebels target with booby traps, remote control detonations, and surprise attacks. The opening depicts the death of one of the team members and the rest of the film centers around this man’s replacement, Sergeant William James, played by Jeremy Renner. Besides the constant threat of death, one the main conflict stems from the differences between Sergeant James and Sergeant J. T. Sanborn, played by Anthony Mackie. Sergeant James is depicted as being relatively laid back and often does not follow orders. Likewise, Sergeant Sanborn is depicted as being very by-the-books and always tries to follow the rules. Their opposite personalities often put them at odd with one another both during missions and during down time. This is shown through their constant arguing during a mission in which Sergeant James has to defuse a number of bombs hidden in a burned out car. During this scene he removes his headset, breaking any communication between him and the rest of the squad, putting them all in even greater danger than they were before. Sergeant Sanborn punches him afterwards because of this.
One of the main themes of the film comes from a quote shown before the beginning that reads, “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” Throughout The Hurt Locker, this quote becomes validated several times, mainly by the character of Sergeant James. He becomes increasingly obsessed with finding and defusing bombs, initially because it is his job and people will die if he does not, but overtime he becomes fanatical about it. The scene that makes this clear is in the middle of the movie Sergeant James shows Sergeant Sanborn his box of mementos, which happen to be parts of bombs that he has defused in the past. He says that he keeps them because he likes knowing that each item in the box could have killed him but didn’t. He is entranced and addicted to the war and how it makes him feel about his life.
This theme is shown even more effectively when Sergeant James returns home to his wife and child only to be increasingly bored and disenchanted with civilian life. The film ends with him returning to the war zone in Iraq to continue defusing bombs.