“It so happens that The Hurt Locker takes place in Iraq,” writes Entertainment Weekly‘s Lisa Schwarzbaum, “but geography is almost beside the point. What makes the film so essential is its pinpoint accuracy in mapping the disorienting roads a man can walk down when ?his job keeps him so close to death, working for what sometimes feels like a distant principle.

“Director Kathryn Bigelow and journalist-screenwriter Mark Boal (whose blunt, vivid script is based on reports from his 2004 stint in Baghdad embedded with an Army bomb squad) probe the intersection of bravery and obsession, of risk and responsibility. (Guy Pearce and Ralph ?Fiennes make brief, jolting cameo appearances as ?similar risk-takers.) The result is an intense, action-driven war pic, a muscular, efficient standout that ?simultaneously conveys the feeling of combat from within as well as what it looks like on the ground.

“This ain’t no war videogame, no flashy, cinematic art piece; there’s nothing virtual about this reality.”