Kathryn Bigelow, director of 'The Hurt Locker'

June 29, 2009 9:49:57 AM PDT
The Hurt Locker is currently slated to open in New York and Los Angeles on June 26 and in Chicago on July 10.The Hurt Locker, winner of the 2008 Venice Film Festival SIGNIS Grand Prize, is a riveting, suspenseful portrait of the courage under fire of the military's unrecognized heroes: the technicians of a bomb squad who volunteer to challenge the odds and save lives in one of the world's most dangerous places. Three members of the Army's elite Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) squad battle insurgents and each other as they search for and disarm a wave of roadside bombs on the streets of Baghdad?in order to try and make the city a safer place for Iraqis and Americans alike. Their mission is clear? protect and save? but it's anything but easy, as the margin of error when defusing a war-zone bomb is zero. This thrilling and heart-pounding look at the effects of combat and danger on the human psyche is based on the first-hand observations of journalist and screenwriter Mark Boal, who was embedded with a special bomb unit in Iraq. These men spoke of explosions as putting you in "the hurt locker."

Acclaimed director Kathryn Bigelow brings together groundbreaking realistic action and intimate human drama in a landmark film starring Jeremy Renner (Dahmer, The Assassination of Jesse James), Anthony Mackie (Half Nelson, We Are Marshall) and Brian Geraghty (We Are Marshall, Jarhead), with cameo appearances by Ralph Fiennes (The Reader), David Morse ("John Adams"), Evangeline Lilly ("Lost") and Guy Pearce (Memento). The Hurt Locker is produced by Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Greg Shapiro and Nicolas Chartier. The screenplay is written by Mark Boal (In the Valley of Elah, story). Barry Ackroyd, BSC (United 93, The Wind That Shakes the Barley) is director of photography. Production designer is Karl Juliusson (K19: The Widowmaker, Breaking the Waves). Editors are Bob Murawski (Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3) and Chris Innis. Costume designer is George Little (Jarhead, Crimson Tide). Music is by Academy Award Nominee Marco Beltrami (Knowing) and Buck Sanders (3:10 to Yuma), and sound design by Academy Award Nominee Paul N.J. Ottosson (Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3).

The story begins in the summer of 2004. Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) of Bravo Company are at the volatile center of the war, part of a small counterforce specifically trained to handle the homemade bombs, or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), that account for more than half of American hostile deaths and have killed thousands of Iraqis. The job, a high-pressure, high-stakes assignment, which soldiers volunteer for, requires a calm intelligence that leaves no room for mistakes, as they learn when they lose their team leader on a routine mission.

When Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) cheerfully takes over the team, Sanborn and Eldridge are shocked by what seems like his reckless disregard for military protocol and basic safety measures. And yet, in the fog of war, appearances are never reliable for long. Is James really a swaggering cowboy who lives for peak experiences and the moments when the margin of error is zero ? or is he a consummate professional who has honed his esoteric craft to high-wire precision? As the fiery chaos of Baghdad threatens to engulf them, the men struggle to understand and contain their mercurial new leader long enough for them to make it home. They have only 38 days left in their tour, but with each new mission comes another deadly encounter, and as James blurs the line between bravery and bravado, it seems only a matter of time before disaster strikes.

US ARMY EXPLOSIVE ORDNANCE DISPOSAL: FAST FACTS

? In 2004, there were only about 150 trained Army EOD techs in Iraq.

? The job was so dangerous that EOD techs were five times more likely to die than all other soldiers in the theater. That same year, the insurgency reportedly placed a $25,000 bounty on the heads of EOD techs.

? Bomb shrapnel travels at 2,700 feet per second. Overpressure, the deadly wave of super-compressed gases that expands from the center of a blast, travels at 13,000 miles an hour-at a force equal to 700 tons per square inch.

? Separations and relationship troubles are so common among EOD teams that soldiers sometimes joke that EOD stands for 'every one divorced."

? Bomb-disposal teams were first created in World War II. Starting in 1942, when Germany blitzed London with time-delayed bombs, specially trained U.S. soldiers joined British officers who diagrammed the devices using pencil sketches before they attempted to defuse them with common tools.

? Bomb techs are trained at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The Army looks for volunteers who are confident, forthright, comfortable under extreme pressure and emotionally stable. To get into the training program, a prospective tech first needs a high score on the mechanical-aptitude portion of the armed forces exam. Once the school begins, candidates are gradually winnowed out over six months of training, and only 40 percent will graduate.

PRODUCTION NOTES

· For The Hurt Locker, director Kathryn Bigelow took her cast and crew into the Jordanian desert to work under some of the most rigorous conditions possible.

· With director of photography Barry Ackroyd, Bigelow she devised an unconventional technique for filming that simulates the spontaneous feeling of a documentary, while immersing viewers in the nonstop tension of its characters' world

· Bigelow made the choice to film The Hurt Locker with four handheld cameras simultaneously. She has shot with multiple cameras on each of her films, using as many as 12 at a time.

· To meet the ambitious schedule of shooting The Hurt Locker's many extended action sequences in only 44 days, the crew worked six-day weeks and blitzed through complicated, highly choreographed blocking that Bigelow would outline in her head well in advance. "I look at each sequence like a three-dimensional puzzle that has to be translated to a two-dimensional surface,"

· On The Hurt Locker, the filmmakers used multiple points of view and constantly moving cameras to create the kind of immediacy that places the viewer in the center of the fog of war. "We had cameras everywhere," says Jeremy Renner, who plays Sgt James, one of the movie's main characters. "We called them Ninja cameras, just hiding all over the place. We never knew where anything was." Shooting in this way required flexibility on the part of the actors.

ABOUT KATHRYN BIGELOW

KATHRYN BIGELOW (Director and Producer) has distinguished herself as one of Hollywood's most innovative filmmakers. In 1985, Bigelow directed and co-wrote the stirring cult classic Near Dark, produced by Steven-Charles Jaffe. The film was critically lauded as a "poetic horror film." As always, Bigelow's visual style garnered positive reactions from the press, who described it as "dreamy, passionate and terrifying, a hallucinatory vision of the American nightworld that becomes both seductive and devastating." Following the release of the film, the Museum of Modern Art honored Bigelow with a career retrospective.

In 1991, Bigelow directed the action thriller Point Break, which starred Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. Executive produced by James Cameron, Point Break explored the dangerous extremes of a psychological struggle between two young men. The Chicago Tribune commended her astonishing filmmaking sensibilities and described her as "a uniquely talented, uniquely powerful filmmaker?Bigelow has tapped into something primal and strong. She is a sensualist in the most sensual of mediums."

When Strange Days was released in 1995, Roger Ebert called it a "technical tour de force." In the film, Bigelow explored the unsettling prospects of computer-generated virtual reality and the impending new millennium. Strange Days received rave reviews and was highly praised for its energy and unique, intense visuals. Janet Maslin, in The New York Times, stated that "the furiously talented" Bigelow was "operating at full throttle? using material ablaze with eerie promise? she turns Strange Days into a troubling but undeniably breathless joyride."

Starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett and Juliette Lewis, Strange Days was co-written by James Cameron and released by Twentieth Century Fox. Bigelow also directed The Weight of Water, starring Sean Penn, Sarah Polley, Catherine McCormack and Elizabeth Hurley. Based on the bestselling Anita Shreve novel, The Weight of Water made its world premiere in a gala screening at the 25th annual Toronto International Film Festival in 2000 and drew praise from critics and filmmakers alike. Variety described the film as being "Bigelow's richest, most ambitious and personal work to date; imbued with suspense, benefiting from Bigelow's penchant for creating a visual sense of menace and an atmosphere of fear."

On the release of K-19: The Widowmaker, The New York Times declared Bigelow "one of the most gifted?directors working in movies today." Starring Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson and Peter Saarsgard, it was one of the more critically well-received films of the summer of 2002. The film tells the true story of a heroic Soviet naval crew who risked their lives to prevent a near nuclear disaster aboard their submarine. Critics praised Bigelow as "an expert technician who never steps wrong" (Roger Ebert).

Bigelow went where no other filmmaker has gone before, making Soviet soldiers from the Cold War era the heroes of a major American production. For Bigelow, there was a larger purpose to telling this important forgotten chapter of history. "?At times I allow myself to hope that K-19 will also have another role to play, that it can help to throw open the narrow ideological window through which we, as Americans, have viewed a particular past and culture. In those moments I'm thinking back over the many disquieting things I saw in Russia, and most of all the people I met there: Our former enemies whose great courage we may now, finally, after all these years, beprepared to acknowledge."


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