Forced to play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of war, an elite Army bomb squad unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb.
Following a screening of the film in October 2010, four experts gave their responses to the film which can be read by clicking on the article titles on the right-hand side of this page.
As a teacher in the School of Journalism at Cardiff University my first reactions to this film were through my concern for the way that images and representations of warfare serve to either aid or confound the way that the public understands wars, who fights in them, who is harmed by them and why they are fought. With massive financial cuts across news organisations there has been an increased reliance on stock footage and photographs supplied by specialist corporations.
Active military service is well recognised as a risk factor for the development of psychiatric disorder. Perhaps the most commonly discussed condition is post traumatic stress disorder; characterised by re-experiencing of the traumatic event, for example through nightmares or recurrent distressing thoughts of what happened, avoidance of thinking or talking about it, emotional numbing and hyperarousal including increased vigilance, increased startle reaction, irritability and sleeping difficulties.
Aristotle argued that every virtue lies between two vices. Courage lies between cowardice and foolhardiness. But his terminology can be misleading. Although cowardice is a 'vice of deficiency' and foolhardiness a 'vice of excess', the scale is not really quantitative. It is not a matter of how frequently one faces down danger. It is rather a matter of behaving appropriately with respect to danger.
In a review of the film, the Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw explained that the “hurt locker” is a name for the physical trauma of repeatedly being in close proximity to the deafening blast of explosions – or, as Bradshaw put it, ‘basically Shell Shock 2.0’. The term “shell shock” was coined in the early months of the First World War. It originated among the troops as a way of describing the condition experienced by some soldiers caught up in blasts, who might be physically unharmed but suffered strange symptoms such as deafness, blindness, mutism, or amnesia.