The Hurt Locker (Digital 4K UHD)
The Hurt Locker has been released in 4K Ultra HD as a Digital-Only release! Here's our review!
Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner), the cocky leader of a bomb disposal unit in Iraq, finds himself at odds with a fellow soldier (Anthony Mackie) who finds his approach too reckless. Also stars Brian Geraghty, Guy Pierce, Ralph Fiennes, and Evangeline Lilly. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow deservedly became the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director for her work on The Hurt Locker. Nearly a decade later, the film still holds up as a riveting exploration of the dehumanizing effects of war.
In recent years, films about the Iraq War have dealt less on war itself, and more on the politics of the Iraqi conflict. Those films haven’t held up as well as The Hurt Locker, whose singular focus on the nature of war gives it a timeless (yet relevant) feel. It also boasts some fantastic performances from Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie, who would go on to superstardom a few years later in Marvel Studios’ Avengers films.
The film follows William James (Renner) who joins a bomb disposal unit with Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty). James’ cavalier approach to bomb defusing puts him and his team at risk, and both Sanborn and Eldridge begin to wonder if they’ll survive their rotation.
Renner was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor, although he lost out to Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart. He’s perfect in the role, balancing the extremes of his character’s personality well. Mackie is fantastic as Sanborn; even though he had a number of film credits prior to The Hurt Locker, his breakout performance here put him on the fast track to stardom.
The true standout performance here, however, is from Brian Geraghty as Eldridge. As a soldier feeling the regret of losing friends in battle, he captures perfectly the war-weary soldier at the end of his psychological rope.
The film itself deviates a bit in the third act, as James and his team go off on their own to hunt down a bomber. It’s a bit of a stretch in logic, as their actions would never have been allowed in the actual field of battle. Still, the dramatics provide the groundwork for a solid finale, which is simply that there is rarely a satisfying conclusion to war which ties up loose ends and instills a sense of victory. Survival is the only victory.
Bigelow’s direction has been praised as a fairly accurate depiction of the experiences of the Iraqi War. It not only propelled her to an Oscar for directing, it led The Hurt Locker to dominate the Academy Awards in 2010, winning six in total, including Best Picture. Bigelow herself would revisit the theme of war in the Middle East in 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty, another exceptional film.
The Hurt Locker captures a level of authenticity that few war films ever achieve, and it does so without pandering or lecturing on the morality of war. It reflects not only the inevitable necessity of war, it presents without apology the flawed nobility of the soldiers who must carry it out.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
It’s difficult to grade The Hurt Locker’s 4K presentation on a purely technical level, as the film itself is purposely presented in a grainy, gritty video that conveys the look and feel of war. If you’re looking for reference-level sharpness or detail, know that you don’t always get it, for good reason.
A number of photographic techniques were used in the film, including the use of 16mm and a special high-speed camera to capture bomb detonations. As a result, many of the shots have a deliberately high level of film grain, while others capture every minute detail of the sun-bleached, rocky desert setting.
The 4K transfer is a marked improvement over the HD transfer, but only in select shots, where one can see the texture of rocks and sand with stunning sharpness. Even shots with a manipulated image however, look better than ever.
Color reproduction is again, subjective, as filters set a stark palette. Overall, I find the 4K transfer exhibits a better contrast in the color palette, and a slightly warmer picture over the HD/Blu-ray transfer. The presentation is effective, and at times, very impressive.
The 4K presentation includes a newly mixed Dolby Atmos soundtrack by Academy Award winner Paul N.J. Ottosson, who was part of the team responsible for The Hurt Locker’s Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing Oscar wins.
It’s an excellent sound mix, with the proper clarity and balance and some effective, immersive bass during the combat scenes.
No special features are included with the digital version of the film.
UHD DIGITAL SPECS
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Running Time: 130 minutes
Rating: R (violence, language)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio