Hurt Locker, The (Blu-ray) (2008)

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Released 22-Jun-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Hurt Locker: Behind the Scenes
Interviews-Cast-Cast interviews
Featurette-Backstage featurette
Gallery-Photo-Image gallery
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 130:39
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kathryn Bigelow
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jeremy Renner
Anthony Mackie
Brian Geraghty
Guy Pearce
Ralph Fiennes
David Morse
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $42.95 Music Marco Beltrami
Buck Sanders


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     It's the film that cost $US237 million to make, took over 10 years to develop, revolutionised cinema attendance by breaking box-office records and won Best Picture at the 2010 Academy Awards ceremony. It is of course James Cameron's Avatar...oh, what could have been, if only the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had the gall to finally allow a science fiction film or a comedy to win Best Picture. It's not likely to happen soon folks, but when it does it will make the same amount of headlines as Kathryn Bigelow's award for Best Director for The Hurt Locker (first female director to do so in 81 years) or Halle Berry's award for Best Leading Actress for Monster's Ball in 2001. I know that by stating this opinion I am likely to raise the ire of movie lovers who contend that Avatar has an underdeveloped plot. However this is not the essence of my point; what I am effectively saying here is this: in 30 years time will you remember Avatar or the actual 2010 Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker? Surely, the cultural and social impact a film has should be taken into consideration for Best Picture.

     In beginning this review in this manner it is not my desire to waste time by trying to compare Academy Award wins for The Hurt Locker with other films released in 2009 (for the record, The Hurt Locker won 6, Avatar won 3). The Hurt Locker is a very fine film, and what makes it so good is its ability to evoke tension in the expectation of the unknown. This is a film where you will wonder where the characters will go to next; you really feel the overwhelming desire of the men of Bravo Company to see just one more day and survive as they count down on their 38 day mission to serve and defuse bombs in Iraq.

     The Hurt Locker has the distinction of being the lowest gross revenue (adjusted for inflation) Best Picture winner ever. At the time of its win in March, 2010 it had grossed just $US19 million worldwide against its small $US15 million budget. After its win, it did double its gross revenue to $US40 million. The small budget is a result of the independent financing.

     The film is based on a screenplay written by Mark Boal, a freelance writer who was embedded as a journalist in 2004 with a US bomb squad in Iraq. As stated, director Kathryn Bigelow became the first female to win an Academy Award for Best Director. It's great that the Academy has finally recognised that females can in fact direct films; I wonder when they will realise that Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick could direct also, despite not being females.

     The plot of the film centres on Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) , a veteran who has successfully defused over 800 explosive devices, and who becomes a team leader in the Bravo company of a U.S. Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit during 2004, replacing Staff Sergeant Thompson (Guy Pearce). The three-man team also includes Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), who communicate with their team leader via radio inside his bomb suit and provide cover from potential snipers while he examines IEDs (improvised explosive devices). During their missions Sanborn and Eldridge come to see James as reckless because of his refusal to do things 'by the book'; for example, he frequently works on disarming devices without a bomb disposal robot.

     Screenwriter and Producer Mark Boal presents Sergeant James as an antihero in this film; he has a need to risk his life in an unconventional manner and this unsettles his fellow soldiers. But this is what surviving war is about; a soldier must embrace the fact that they can die at any moment. The irony in this film is that the characters who die are the ones who don't come to terms with this fact or are ignorant of it. Jeremy Renner's portrayal of Sergeant James carries the theme of the film, presented as a quote in the opening scene that "war is a drug", which is derived from Chris Hedges’ 2002 best-selling book, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, and he really did deserve the Oscar for Best Actor (although it's hard to fault Jeff Bridges’ performance in Crazy Heart).

     The low budget meant that shooting was done on location in Jordan, often in stifling heat, with multiple camera crews using cheaper 16mm film. The final result was that The Hurt Locker was edited down from nearly 200 hours of footage, so the Oscar for film editing was deserved simply for the fact that it would have taken so long to cut the film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd used multiple cameras and 16mm film for The Hurt Locker. This is not a pristine transfer and it is not intended to be so. The reason Kathryn Bigelow opted for Ackroyd for this film was his work on Paul Greengrass’ United 93, which depicted an immediate and tense realistic look through the use of Greengrass’ signature 'shaky camera' technique (Note the use of it on the Bourne Supremacy and the Bourne Ultimatum, with constant zooming and pans and 'over-the-shoulder' shots to deliberately disassociate the viewer).

     The aspect ratio of The Hurt Locker is 1:78:1, 16x9 enhanced. The average bitrate of the MPEG 4-AVC 1080p transfer is 27.98 m/b per sec, which is less than the bitrate of the US release (31.46 m/b per sec). There are instances of close-up shots revealing sharp detail, and blacks are rendered wonderfully at times too, but overall this is a gritty picture, shot in a desert with neutral colours highlighting the apolitical nature of the movie. Colours are washed out here, with pale greys and whites dominating.

     There is intentional low level noise in the transfer, not from compression, but rather to maintain its realistic, documentary-style look.

     Subtitles are provided in English for the Hard of Hearing.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The Hurt Locker includes a superb reference-standard DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. It does not contrive tension from the use of non-diegetic soundtrack music, rather it cleverly balances subtle and action-packed moments in the film.

     The main soundtrack is an English DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 track encoded in a 48 kHz/24-bit transfer at 3710 kbps. Dialogue is clear and precise, although I found the dialogue to be sometimes ambiguous, perhaps to keep the viewer guessing as to what will happen next.

     There are three songs by Ministry used in the film, Fear (Is Big Business), Palestina and Khyber Pass. Otherwise, composers Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders (who also worked together on Knowing and In the Electric Mist) use music ambiently, focusing on the development of the plot which centres on the three main members of the Bravo Company EOD unit.

     Surround channels get a real workout here, from the buzzing of helicopters, to the sounds of exploding bombs, sniper-rifle, M9 pistol and machine-gun fire. In contrast, the audio mix also emphasises subtle effects that are especially effective during scenes where the EOD unit are working to diffuse bombs. These effects consist of sounds like footsteps, breathing and distant conversations from Iraqi civilians near roadside bombs.

     The subwoofer also emphasises the LFE bass effects of the soundtrack and is used perfectly for bomb-explosions, military combat situations and even travelling off-road in a Humvee.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

The Hurt Locker: Behind the Scenes(12:31)

     This is an Electronic Press Kit (EPK) promotion of the film with all the main cast and crew (except Ralph Fiennes) discussing the merits of the film.

Interviews (11:28)

     This extra is similar to the 'Behind the Scenes' extra. It is another EPK style featurette promoting the merits of the film amongst the main cast. We hear interviews from Anthony Mackie (2:09), Brian Geraghty (1:21), David Morse (1:58), Guy Pearce (3:49), and Jeremy Renner (2:11).

Backstage featurette (12:55)

     This includes uninterrupted secondary 'B-roll' footage. What we get is scenes from alternate angles, shot by the multiple camera crews, which were not used in the final cut.

Image Gallery

     Production stills from the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A United States Blu-ray version of The Hurt Locker includes an audio commentary by director Kathryn Bigelow and producer Mark Boal, the same Behind the Scenes extra as the Region B Australian release and an image gallery which plays with an optional Q&A session (featuring Bigelow and Boal) recorded at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London.

     The Region B German, with a German dub, and United Kingdom releases have identical extras to the Region B Australian release. The Region B French release, with a French dub, includes the Behind the Scenes featurette as the only extra.

     The US Region A version of The Hurt Locker with the excellent audio commentary from Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal is the best available version on Blu-ray.

Summary

     Sun Tzu's 6th century BC military treatise, The Art of War, has given us the modern saying , "know your enemy". The full context of the saying is: "So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself." The themes of The Hurt Locker reflect this saying; you never really know who the enemy is here, and the main characters are not really who you think they are.

     This release on Blu-ray features a gritty, real-to-life video transfer and an audio transfer that excels, deserving of its two Oscars for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. The extras are meagre and disappointing, however, and more so for the non-inclusion of the audio commentary that is featured on the Region A US release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Friday, July 09, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

Other Reviews NONE
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