The Hurt Locker

Rated 3.0

Kathryn Bigelow’s unexpectedly yet pleasantly surprising medium-octane drama follows an American explosive ordnance disposal unit in Iraq during its nearly 40-day tour of duty. The director, who normally helms over-the-top tripe like Strange Days, really makes a go of stepping off the force feed and allowing the relationship between three EOD experts—Jeremy Renner as the thrill-seeking bomb expert, Anthony Mackie as the no-nonsense squad leader, Brian Geraghty as an impatient specialist—unfold into a smart rite-of-passage war film. And, in spite of the Locker’s at times belabored neo-realist approach, you have to give Bigelow props: The defusing-a-bomb-before-detonation scene is a cliché so abused in action flicks, it’s a marvel that she can inject a modicum of suspense back into the mere deliberation of which wire to snip.