The film The Hurt Locker is an action thriller produced and directed by American director, Catherine Bingelow. The film presents a realistic performance of the events soldiers go through while in the line of duty (Barker 23). The film is extremely arousing, heartbreaking and suspenseful. For that reason, the film not only entertains the viewers, but it also gives them a reason to hate the war.
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Additionally, with its strong music and sound effect, the film manage to be more appealing, tense and full of suspense, probably than most of many action thrillers set in Hollywood. This film, therefore, present a narrative technique that intelligently breaks with long-established Hollywood narrative techniques. This paper focuses on how music enhances the theme and specific performance of various characters in the film, the Hurt Locker.
Analysis of the films content and theme
Though set in Iraq, the Hurt Locker is quite different from most of the films shot in Iraq largely because it concentrates much on the lives off the bomb experts. The Hurt Locker does not explore political background of Iraq.
The main theme of this action thriller is the narcotic addiction of the war. While focusing on this theme Kathryn Bigelow manages to build tension between the three main characters in the film. Bigelow also manages to create tension and suspense in the scenes where the three characters engage in a fight with terrorists in Iraq.
Bigelow, through her masterful direction, portrays the war as extremely dangerous. For instance, in the first scene, the viewers get to see how deadly it is to go to war. In this scene, the viewers see a team of bomb experts sent to disarm an IED that is buried in one of the roads in Iran. Sergeant Thomas, the team leader of the three experts sent to disarm the bomb, wears a heavy protection suit and rushes down the road to disarm the bomb.
However, as he approaches the IED, one of his team members, Sergeant J. T. Sanborn, spots an Iranian man carrying a mobile phone. He tries to inform Sergeant Thomas, but it is too late, the man dials the phone and a massive explosion follows. Sergeant Thomas is killed in the explosion. Throughout the film, the viewers witness the struggles soldiers go through while in the line of duty. Therefore, in the film, Bigelow explores how war can be dangerous and addictive at the same time.
Description of how the music supports the film, creates moods, gives us emotions, and tells us about a character or where we are
The film is a realistic action film that represent the difficult times that soldiers go through in time of war (Barker 23). The film portrays both personal lives and the lives soldiers when in the line of duty. Besides costumes, color, lights and props, the realistic nature of the film is well portrayed in the use music and a sound design, which, to a larger extent, helps the film achieve its main theme of war addiction and its dangers.
In the film, music composers use instruments such as guitar, piano, Plexiglas, violin, and various ethnic flutes. Most of the music tracks used in the film are gloomy and foreboding, with exceptional instrumentation that generate a sense of tension. Though the composers try very much to keep instruments to a minimum, the overall effect of the instrument is felt throughout the entire film.
The music enhances the tension in most of the enthralling and emotionally charged scenes of the movie. For instance, the final track in the film, The way I Am, enhances the entire mood and thoughts of the movie. While listening to this track, viewers are left in a state of sympathy for the soldiers who risk their lives in battles.
In the action scene where SGT James discovers that the first improvised explosive device (IED) he detonated is just the first step in the numerous IED set up, the music playing in the background help create tension and emotion among the audience. In the scene, the music begins on a solitary note then deviates into a whole cluster of patterns. For that reason, the tension created through the music make the scene goes beyond fear.
Because of the tension, viewers are left wondering on the possible events that would follow what was happening in this scene. The music in that scene, therefore, enhances a reflection the dangerous environment of the war.
The use of music in the film also enables viewers to know more about the main characters in the film. In the scene where the three EOD technicians fights the terrorists and enters warehouse and discovers that it is the location of a bomb factory, the composers uses melodic approach in the music to enhance the soldiers characters.
Immediately the soldiers enter inside the warehouse, they are extremely surprised to find a small boy lying dead on a table. The boy has a bomb entrenched in his stomach. In this scene, the viewers witness Sergeant James breaking down emotionally and starting to cry like a small child.
The melodic music in the background makes the scene gloomier as James break down to tears. Before this scene, SGT was portrayed as a strong and brave soldier that does not fear war. However, with the aid of music from the back ground, the audience gets to know that even the bravest soldier can have a weak spot. He decides to neutralize the bomb in the boy’s chest.
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Afterwards, James leaves the warehouse carrying the body. The melodic sound makes the scene unforgettable and emotional. The viewers also realize that soldiers are also capable of breaking down emotionally. As a matter of fact, the composers’ ideas to use melody created from strings and Erhu made Sergeant James character memorable and real.
Lastly, the soundtrack, There will be bomb, which is frequently used in different action scenes not only promotes a highly charged environment in which the characters operate on, but also gives a realistic representation of the purgation of their feelings and emotions. This is witnessed towards the end of the movie in the scene where sergeant sanborn states that he is tired of the war and only wants to go home.
Through effective use of sound and music design, the film, The Hurt Locker, is able to presents a masterly reflection of reality and does not create any illusion of life. The actors’ performance in bringing out the theme is quite outstanding.
The message this action movie deliver is quite understandable, as it present a realistic story of how war can be an addictive drug that can make soldiers abandon everything including their families. The Hurt Locker is not a war film; rather it is a real film, which concentrates on the life of soldiers, who are devoted to perform their duties.
Barker, Martin. A Toxic Genre: The Iraq War Films. London: Pluto Press, 2009. Print.
The Hurt Locker. Ex. Prod. Kathryn Bingelow. Universal City, Ca.: Summit Entertainment. 2005. Film.