The Hurt Locker is an American war film about a three-man United States Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team during the Iraq War. The film was directed by Kathryn Bigelow and the screenplay was written by Mark Boal, a freelance writer who was embedded as a journalist in 2004 with a US bomb squad in Iraq. It stars Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty as members of the EOD unit and follows their tour of duty as they contend with defusing bombs, the threat of insurgency, and the tension that develops among them.
The Hurt Locker opens with a quotation from War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, a best-selling 2002 book by New York Times war correspondent and journalist Chris Hedges: "The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug." All the words fade except for the last four. The story depicts how the fictional character Sergeant First Class William James, a battle-tested veteran, arrives as a new team leader in Bravo company of a U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit during the early stages of the post-invasion period in Iraq in 2004, replacing Staff Sergeant Thompson, a character who was killed by a radio-controlled 155 mm improvised explosive device (IED) in Baghdad. The fictional team consists of Sergeant J.T. Sanborn and Specialist Owen Eldridge, whose jobs are to communicate with their team leader via radio inside his bombsuit, and provide him with rifle cover while he examines IEDs. During their missions of disarming IEDs and engaging insurgents together, James's unorthodox methods lead Sanborn and Eldridge to consider him reckless. Tensions mount between James and the other two team members. In another scene, the team carry out a controlled detonation of confiscated explosives in a remote desert area. James returns to the site, where the explosives are already rigged to detonate, to pick up his gloves which he had left behind. Sanborn loudly contemplates killing James by "accidentally" triggering the explosion. Eldridge is unhappy at the thought and Sanborn lets the thought hang in the air: he does not kill James. Driving back to the army camp in their Humvee, the team encounter a damaged jeep and five men clad in Arab garb. After a tense initial encounter, the men reveal themselves to be mercenaries who have captured two prisoners featured on the most-wanted Iraqi playing cards. The soldiers and mercenaries are suddenly under fire and are forced to take cover. Three of the mercenaries are killed by gunfire, and the prisoners are killed whilst attempting to escape. Sanborn and James manage to kill three attackers, while Eldridge kills a fourth. During a raid on a warehouse, James discovers the dead body of a young boy who has been surgically implanted with an unexploded bomb. James believes it to be "Beckham", a young Iraqi merchant he had previously befriended. Later, James leaves the military compound in a bid to seek revenge on those responsible for the young boy's death but his search leads to nothing. Called to the scene of a petrol tanker detonation in order to carry out a damage assessment and to determine if it was a suicide bombing, James orders his team to pursue suspected insurgents responsible for the explosion. Sanborn protests that the task should be left to the three infantry platoons in the area, but James overrules him. During the operation Eldridge is abducted by insurgents, shot in the leg and is rescued by James and Sanborn. The following morning, James is approached by Beckham. The young boy tries to converse with James, who walks by without saying a word. Being airlifted for surgery, Eldridge angrily blames James for his injury. After failing in a mission to remove and disarm a time bomb strapped to an Iraqi civilian's chest, Sanborn becomes emotional and confesses to James that he can no longer cope with the pressure of being in EOD, and he looks forward to finally leaving Iraq and having a son. James returns home to his wife and child and is shown quietly performing the routine tasks of suburban civilian life. But the boredom of normal life easily agitates James. One night James confesses to his infant son that there is only one thing that he knows he loves. At the close of the film he is seen starting another tour of duty serving with Delta company of an EOD unit as they are just starting their 365 day rotation.