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An Iraq war movie tipped for success

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 23 August 2009

Films about the Iraq war have struggled to make an impact at the box office and with the critics but Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker is expected to buck the trend.

The Hurt Locker

Will anyone want to see a movie about the war in Iraq? That is what the industry is asking itself as studios run shy of investing in films about the conflict.

The Hurt Locker, the latest offering from the United States, was made with independent funding. It is the first Iraq film to draw crowds in America.

The film tells the tale of a bomb disposal squad working in Baghdad, and Bigelow says the aim is to give audiences a "boots on the ground" sense of being there.

She said: "I think it's a subject that is complicated. It's definitely emotionally fraught and at the same time I think the film provides a window onto a fairly abstracted conflict.

"The fact that it's very specific and set in theatre I think is very illuminating."

The screenplay was written from first-hand experience by Mark Boal, a reporter who was embedded with the US Army's explosive ordnance disposal squad in Baghdad in 2004.

As such, it is exacting in its detail, persuasively authentic and almost entirely free of the usual "war movie" baggage. There are no big speeches, no epic battles, no clear winners and losers.

Instead, it focuses on a three-man bomb squad, and in particular their sergeant (Jeremy Renner), who seems only fully functional when in the face of danger.

More problematically, The Hurt Locker is also devoid of any obvious political angle with its broadly sympathetic portrayal of the military and lack of explicit comment on the wider conflict, some critics have accused it of not being anti-war enough, or even labelled it as propaganda.

American critic Tara McKelvey wrote: "The Hurt Locker is one of the most effective recruiting vehicles for the US Army that I have seen."

Watch the full interview with Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow explained to Nicholas Glass why she chose relatively uknown actors for the film.

"I think what it does is amplify a sense of tension and suspense. In that as an audience you are not coming to those characters with a kind of preconception - he's so and so, therefore he will have a heroic death in the last act if he dies at all. You have no idea who is vulnerable and who is not.

"We were interested in making it as authentic as possible and realistic as possible - giving the audience a boots on the ground, you are there, fly on the wall look at combat in the 21st century. A day in the life of a bomb tech.

"These are men who have arguably the most dangerous job in the world, yet it's a volunteer military, they are there by choice."

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