The Hurt Locker is a film by one of my favourite directors, Kathryn Bigelow, about a bomb disposal squad in Iraq. This is one of those modern films about war - and I'm thinking for example of Jarhead - with events but no plot. I guess this reflects the experience of people in real war situations. And coincidentally I see this point made by an actual bomb disposal expert in the Guardian a few days ago.
The film does succeed in showing that on a tour of duty, there is no overarching story – it's just a series of incidents.Compared to Jarhead each individual event is very intense, but there is no overall meaning or progression in the story. The overall feeling is exciting pointlessness.
The subject of the story is a charismatic but suicidally reckless bomb disposal Staff Sergeant and his relationship with the Sergeant who provides military cover for his operations: here is a picture. The expert is a sort of genius white trash, and the military man an educated black professional.
I think all Kathryn Bigelow films are about the relationship between two strong and good looking leads. One is intelligent and anxious, the other charismatic and doomed. Sometimes it's a man and a woman (Near Dark, Blue Steel, Strange Days) sometimes it's two men (Hurt Locker, Point Break and K-19). In this film she does get the two guys to strip off, get drunk and have a punch-fight, but like the rest of the film it sort of doesn't go anywhere.
At one point the disposal guy says to the Sergeant 'Do you know why I'm like this?' and you think 'At last, some kind of explanation.' And then there's complete silence, and you realise it was a question - he's asking this other guy who he's only known a few weeks, to tell him why he acts the way he does. The silence lengthens, and the other guy looks out the window of the armoured car glumly at the ruined streets of Bagdad, and there is no explanation.