Do not see this movie. Please.
The trailer will have you believe this movie is worth watching. Time, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone will also have you believe this movie is worth watching. But listen to the voice of reason (i.e.: me), and avoid this at all costs. It runs a little over two hours, but it felt twice as long, and will certainly ruin your evening with the potential of giving you a headache. Basically, if you decide to see The Hurt Locker, after reading this review, then you deserve to waste your money.
The film follows a three-man bomb squad in the Iraqi war (circa 2004), with several scenes of how the unit disarms various bombs. Or, if you want to look at it another way: it’s basically a video game that you have no control over. Staff Sergeant William James (played by Jeremy Renner) is the wild renegade in charge of this unit, who doesn’t like to play by the rules; they make it painfully obvious that he gets a rush out of disarming bombs. Sergeant JT Sanborn (played by Anthony Mackie) is sick of duty, and does his best to stay alive so he can get back home, while Specialist Owen Eldridge (played by Brian Geraghty) is a giant pussy that should have never been a soldier.
Even though these three are the main characters, we learn virtually nothing about them, and there are only two scenes of “bonding” between the three soldiers, who we are supposed to feel for. Aside from the scenes that are inconsequential tangents which the Staff Sergeant creates, the bomb scenes were genuinely cool and suspenseful. But even those started wearing on me, since it was just more of the same, with slightly different variables. You never really get a handle on what drives the Staff Sergeant to do what he does, or to think what he thinks, which creates a giant bubble of confusion as the story progresses.
I had no qualms with the acting, and the sets / visuals were very realistic; imagine Jarhead, but not entertaining. There were points where I felt like I was being tortured for continuing to watch – a really long sniper scene, and a sub-plot between the Staff Sergeant and an Iraqi boy. The whole theme was to explain that some soldiers (the Staff Sergeant) are driven to war for the adrenaline rush, and to avoid the mundane; even though the theme was conveyed, it didn’t keep you interested. Oh, and if you think “hey, it can’t be that bad with Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes” then you are in for a bad surprise, since they were each in the film for a total one scene each.
Really, I’d love to say something positive, but I just can’t. The story was as flat from beginning to end; you’d have more fun off pulling out your pubic hair, one by one. Please watch something else.