Set during the Iraq War in 2004, Kathryn Bigelow's Academy Award-winning film centers around a United States Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal team as they attempt to survive the last remaining days of their deployment whilst dealing with the threat of defusing improvised explosive devices.
Bigelow wanted the movie to be more authentic, so the movie was shot in Jordan, close to the Iraqi border.
The Hurt Locker was written by journalist and screenwriter Mark Boal, who was embedded in a US bomb squad in Iraq in 2004. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the relatively low-budget film was shot in Jordan, as close to the Iraq border as possible in order to make it as authentic as possible.
The film follows Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty as a bomb disposal unit in the US army, dealing with tensions within the group as well as the conflict with Iraqi insurgents and the peculiar, life-altering environment of the battlefield.
The film's shot was allegedly difficult in the heat of the desert, reflecting the situations in the film. Producer Tony Mark claims that:
"It's a tough, tough movie about a tough, tough subject. There was a palpable tension throughout on the set. It was just like the onscreen story of three guys who fight with each other, but when the time comes to do the work, they come together to get the job done."
The production setup was unique for a feature film, in that over four camera crews were used, providing multiple angles on the same sets - usually a technique used for frequent periodicals such as soaps and sitcoms, rather than the conventional single camera setup. This resulted in nearly 200 hours of footage, and garnered Bob Murawski and Chris Innis Academy Awards for editing, with a nomination for Barry Ackroyd's cinematography. Barry Ackroyd was chosen because of his impressive work on Paul Greengrass' United 93.
Authenticity was something that was taken very seriously, with the actors also training with members of the US army beforehand, similar to the intense training the actors of Black Hawk Down were put through by director Ridley Scott.
While the film gained universal critical acclaim, with 9 Academy Award nominations and 6 wins, it was slated by some war veterans for falsely portraying living conditions for the military in Iraq. It was premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2008, receiving a standing ovation at the end. Despite its critical success it was purchased only reluctantly by Summit Entertainment due to previous Iraq War film failures. As a result, it had limited theatrical release at 500 screens in the USA. It grossed $42 million against a budget of $15 million.
The competition at the 2009 Academy Awards gained particular interest due to its close rival, James Cameron's motion-capture fantasy film Avatar. Avatar was the firm favourite, and the contest was brought to public attention by the fact that the Hurt Locker's director Kathryn Bigelow is Cameron's ex-wife. The Hurt Locker won through, surprising critics and fans alike by trumping Avatar's 3 Academy Awards.