Tuesday, March 9, 2010


In most military emplacements and ships, everything is stored in its own designated place, and that place is usually called a "locker" (for example, hoses are kept in the hose locker, paint in the paint locker, etc.). Military people often extend a naming theme into other areas (for example, a person's nose might be called a "snot locker", as that's where Joe keeps his snot). The hurt locker is the place where pain is found; either because someone is causing somebody pain ("You and I are going to have us a session in the hurt locker") or because entering into a given situation is sure to bring pain ("Man, that village was a full-on hurt locker"). The latter usage applies to the film.

Journalist and screenwriter Mark Boal, who wrote and produced the film The Hurt Locker, first heard this expression in Baghdad. In 2004, Boal went to Bagdad and embedded with an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal ) squad to write an article for Playboy, The Man in the Bomb Suit, a story about an Army staff sergeant who had disarmed the most bombs in Iraq.

I was trying to interview a soldier about a bomb that was there, and I was trying to figure out how much explosive charge the bomb carried, how many pounds and how much damage it could do, and he just sort of said, ‘Put it this way; if it goes off, it will put you in the hurt locker. And I’d never heard that before, and it really sunk in,” partly because Mr. Boal was close enough to be put in the hurt locker himself.

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." The hurt locker is the destination for victims of explosions. For members of the Army's elite Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad, the likelihood of ending up in the hurt locker is a risk they live with daily. As a title, “it appealed to me because it gets to a central theme of the film, which is the cost of war and the brutalizing effects of combat,” Mr. Boal said. “And so more or less, to be really reductive about it, if you’re in Iraq, you’re in the hurt locker.”

Source: The Carpetbagger, the Awards season blog of the NY Times

Best actor nominee Jeremy Renner, who plays Staff Sgt. William James, an army sergeant and bomb-disposal expert in the Iraq War drama, explains what the title means to him:

For me, it was a thousand different things and when I first saw it I thought that’s just a really fucking cool title. Page one, “The Hurt Locker, what is this about?” And then it became a casket, I thought of it as a casket or a hospital bed, not as a place. And after shooting it, it was an emotional and spiritual place of pain and despair and loneliness and loss. This is personal stuff, this is for me, this has nothing to do with the movie, that is what it seemed to represent because we were all in the hurt locker, somehow.
There was an outhouse for 200 people that were all in diarrhea that’s the hurt locker! Get me out of this suit, were all going to the hurt locker, you know what I’m saying. So it was a lot of things for a lot of people. You know it doesn’t matter what I think so much, it’s how one interprets it. That is why I love the movie title, I love the characters because it’s so rich, and they are not one note, and there is room for interpretation. I love that.

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