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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Hurt Locker can be found here.
The Hurt Locker is based on the accounts of American journalist Mark Boal, who was embedded with an American bomb squad in the war in Iraq. Boal also co-produced the movie. The Hurt Locker won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Motion Picture.
To put someone in a "hurt locker" is to physically mess someone up, badly. It is roughly synonymous with causing someone "a world of pain." According to the movie's official web site, "In Iraq it is soldier vernacular to speak of explosions as sending you to "the hurt locker."
On the film's DVD commentary track, both director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal confirm that the boy who Sgt. James encounters at Camp Victory the morning after Eldridge has been injured is Beckham. Despite his certainty, James was mistaken when he believed the mutilated body he'd found in the bombed-out building was Beckham's.
It's a form of cover for James as he approaches the bomb. IEDs are often operated by a nearby bomb-maker who holds a trigger. James was counting on the smoke to be a diversion; if the bomber can't see him working on the bomb then they won't know when to detonate it. Also, the bomber wouldn't want to just simply detonate the bomb despite the smoke because they'd want more soldiers or victims in the blast zone to make full use of their explosives. Killing one soldier with the bomb, say James himself, wouldn't be the best use of their weapon. A 2nd explanation may be that the smoke grenade would prevent any insurgent snipers from killing James. A sniper's not going to waste a shot if they can't see their target. Sanborn is angry because James refuses to communicate with him during the operation. James is used to doing things his own way, not to mention, he was getting distracted with Sanborn yapping in his ear. Sanborn is used to a different way of operating, in which his team is always in constant communication. This is why Sanborn punches James afterwards. Had they had a huddle before going to defuse the bomb in which James said, "I don't want to you talking to me unless absolutely necessary, while I defuse the bomb. So I'm not distracted." he probably could have avoided angering Sanborn. But James is a bit of a maverick who is addicted to the adrenaline of the situation.
As the quote at the beginning of the film says "...war is a drug." The idea of veterans coming back and adjusting to life at home is an old concept: many soldiers who have gone through traumatic experiences in war have trouble easing back into their former lives. Seems like the only way James could be happy was by going back to Iraq for another tour (a military one) and starting to defuse bombs again. There is also the scene at the end where James is speaking to his infant son and describes how in getting older the number of things we love diminishes ... even, he says, down to one. The addictive compulsion of war is apparently James' most persistent and remaining love. If you listen to Capt. Willard's opening monologue in Apocalypse Now, he talks about being unable to adjust to life back in America after his first tour in Vietnam.
Eldridge was feeling guilt and post-traumatic stress from the death of Thompson in the first scene. If you remember, the man running the butcher's shop was the one who detonated the bomb with his phone. While Eldridge was running toward him, you heard Sanborn yelling, "burn him!", their code for shooting the man. When Eldridge talked to Col. Cambridge, he was thinking that Thompson would be alive if he'd actually shot the man, maybe preventing him from pressing the button on his phone that detonated the bomb.
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