Second Best Iraq War Movie: The Hurt Locker

There have been a number of movies made about the Iraq war.

Almost all of them were garbage. The problem usually is this: Hollywood sits in a very liberal, very ignorant cocoon. The only thing they know about the war are things printed in ultra-left journals, and their preferred sources are generally anti-American. So all previous movies suffered from an intense preachiness – and severe moral and factual confusion. In most of them, American soldiers were either butchers, or half mad pitiful creeps who have been driven crazy by the war.

Because these movies are pure rubbish, let’s hope they never see the light of day again. Let’s hope the actors that acted in them, their directors and set designers and producers never get another job again. Participation in this drivel was unforgivable. The Valley of Elah, Rendition, etc, etc. You know what I am talking about. What I do dislike is wilful ugliness; those who salivate at the chance to portray American soldiers as beasts.

I don’t mind dissent at all. As a matter of fact, I like it. However, dissent has to be based on reality. Not what turns you on, not what you would like to believe; not what is trendy at the moment. Not what gets you plaudits in the Hollywood crowd and may get you a role someday. True dissent is carefully thought out, and weighs both sides carefully. It then points out where we are wrong. That type of dissent is laudable.

But there is an unthinking kind of dissent. The kind that glories in being against the rest of society, simply because it is against society. That kind of dissent is not based on serious thinking. Often, it is based on a disrupted sense of right and wrong, and a desire to lash out. Sometimes it is based on a half-way reasonable idea: that if everyone is going one way, you should go the other, if only for balance.  Tim Robbins once said something that led me to believe his dissent was of that type. Perhaps I am wrong. Michael Moore is the best representative of this kind of dissent. It is the kind where any kind of distortion is OK, because his cause is “noble”.

That kind of dissent is pathetic, not patriotic.

As far as I can tell, there have only been 2 Iraq war movies that had anything at all like honesty attached to them: The Hurt Locker and Taking Chance.

The Hurt Locker is a good movie. It is brilliantly directed,(Kathryn Bigalow)  and well written. And very well acted.  The writer is a journalist who was embedded with the troops, specifically with an Explosive Ordinance Demolition team, so he knows wereof he speaks.

The movie is full of the gritty detail of war. The procedures that are used for bomb demolition seem to be spot on. The words and phrases the soldiers use seem to be the ones real soldiers actually use. Their behavior is behavior that soldiers engage in. The situations depicted in the film could very well have happened in Iraq, in 2004.

The movie does an outstanding job of explaining exactly what it was like for our soldiers in Iraq in 2004. They are in the middle of a city, where most of the people are friendly, but any one of them could put a bullet in your head at any moment. As certain Iraqis come into view, you realize they are severe threats. A man just standing looking at you might be ready to push a button that will blow you into a million pieces. In your mind you are thinking  “Shoot! Shoot!” or, “No! He looks harmless!” Or “You can’t take the chance  – shoot him in the leg”. Your mind races with the possibilities. It was excellent filmmaking.

There are only a couple of minor factual quibbles I had with the movie. When 3 soldiers in a Humvee are driving past a row of Humvee’s and Bradley fighting vehicles, one of them says something like “What do we need those tanks for?” Of course, Humvee’s and Bradleys are not tanks, and any soldier would never say anything like that. They know the difference. However, Hollywood types would call them tanks.

The other instance is where the men are ambushed in the middle of the desert. In this scene, they they have linked up with some “contractors”. This part was pretty stupid in parts. The contractors have a couple of prisoners, who are hooded and sitting by their truck. We are supposed to feel that they are being abused. Of course, we may not know that they have just beheaded and gutted the local UN woman, but hey, this is Hollywood. A firefight breaks out, and the prisoners make a run for it. The contractor immediately shouts “Hey, those guys are worth $500, ooo to me!” and then runs after them. They are too far gone, so he shoots them. Dead. After he does this, he runs back to cover, laughing maniacally and saying “They’re worth $500,000 dead or alive!”

Contractors are beasts, I guess. 

Their biggest problem here is that a sniper has been picking them off. The contractor takes out his Barrett .50 cal and sets up. Bang! He gets shot by the sniper before he can shoot more than a couple of times. Of course, this means the sniper has zeroed in on anyone who touches that gun. So, what happens next? The heroes of the story man the Barrett and sit there all day, taking their time to set up and zero in on the sniper. Of course, the sniper would have popped them right away.

But these are details. And overall, the details in this movie are exquisite. Especially the explosions. Thanks to the Director for insisting on real explosions, rather than the gasoline-bomb things that pass for explosions in Hollywood movies.

Also thanks to the director for not putting women in the movie in gratuitous positions to show that women should be Army men, too. Invariably, Hollywood has pushed the idea of women in combat,and they even show them punching out men, etc.  This movie does not. Compare the goofy Avatar, where the only good army person is a woman. It is refreshing not to be lectured once in a while.

But on the whole, The Hurt Locker is well thought out, and intense. The Director has done a great job here, building suspense in a way that few directors are able to do. Real suspense, not “you are supposed to be in suspense now”. You are on the edge of your seat half the time, wondering where this is all going to end up.

So: Well done, well done. But in the end, the movie suffers from the same old tired cliche that Hollywood always spouts:  The American military is composed of men who have been destroyed by combat. They have been turned into near- psychopaths.

In her commentary on the film, the Director says that she saw the leading man portray a serial murderer, and then she knew if he could do that, “he could do anything”. So, being a serial murderer somehow recommended him for the part of an American soldier. 


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