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John Drew

The Hurt Locker (2008)

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I hadn't heard of this until yesterday, but amid all the news concerning Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, and the lambasting of Transformers 2, I kept hearing great things about The Hurt Locker. Many critics are calling this the best movie to come out about the war in Iraq, and many are saying it is one of the best films of the year. Many small reviews came out of last years Toronto Film Festival, before the movie got picked up by a distributor.

Has anyone here seen it?
 
QUOTE (Scott Foundas - The Village Voice)
Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker is a full-throttle body shock of a movie. It gets inside you like a virus, puts your nerves in a blender, and twists your guts into a Gordian knot. Set during the last month in the year-long rotation of a three-man U.S. Army bomb squad stationed in Baghdad, it may be the only film made about Iraq�documentary or fiction�that gives us a true sense of what it feels like to be on the front lines of a war fought not in jungles but in cities, where bombs rise up from the ground instead of raining down from the sky, every narrow alley portends an ambush, and every onlooker is a potential insurgent. It's an experiential war movie�one that calls to mind the title of the 1950s docudrama series You Are There�but also a psychologically astute one, matching its intricate sensory architecture with an equally detailed map of the modern soldier's psyche, a diagram of what motivates the volunteers in a volunteer army.

 

QUOTE (Richard Corliss - TIME)
Except for a few digressive scenes � a solo sortie of personal vengeance, a conversation about what it all means � that could easily be cut from the 2 hr. 11 min. running time, The Hurt Locker is a near-perfect movie about men in war, men at work. Through sturdy imagery and violent action, it says that even Hell needs heroes.

The director, Kathryn Bigelow, has paraded her adroitness with complex stories about oddball characters in two curious subgenres: Near Dark (1987) was the all-time teenage vampire love story, Point Break (1991) the all-time surfer-heist movie. The scriptwriter, Marc Boal, is a journalist for Rolling Stone, The Village Voice and Playboy, which ran a story that Paul Haggis expanded into the sharpest of last year's Iraq-related dramas, In the Valley of Elah. These two filmmakers have pooled their complementary talents to make one of the rare war movies that's strong but not shrill, and sympathetic to guys doing an impossible job.

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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It feels like Jeffrey Wells has been promoting this movie for years, now -- certainly he's been at it for months -- but it doesn't screen for the local press here until next week. (And since I'm a full-time dad now, I don't know when I'll get to see it.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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No reviews or comments on this one yet from our critic participants? I missed the early screenings and will finally catch up with the film this evening. Plugged In has a review, but not CTMovies, which is very skimpy this morning (maybe that'll change as of noon Eastern time, as it has before).

The local reviews in D.C. are stellar, confirming the advance word on this film.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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OK, saw it. Not my favorite movie of the year, not the best, but if there's going to be a consensus choice among critics and the Academy for year's best film, I have no problem with The Hurt Locker being that choice. I didn't find it as searing a film as other great films set in the midst of war, but I appreciated that this film is quite different from Platoon or Full Metal Jacket. It's its own thing, and as someone who's from a pro-military family, with relatives who go off to war over and over again, I appreciated the film's unapologetic approach to that calling. Does it explain why people are called to that activity? I didn't think so. But that made me appreciate it all the more.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I got excited to see that Stephen Hunter had responded to the film, but was disappointed in the brevity of his remarks -- and in the typo-filled e-mail. :(


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Saw it today. Wow. It really has an intensity. I'm not sure if that makes it a great picture, but I'm sure it will be on lots of year end lists (maybe even mine), and could well have some Academy consideration. I certainly don't begrudge it any praise it gets, but something about it just didn't put it quite up to the 5.0/5 level for me.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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As an exhibition of masterfully crafted suspense scenes, it's pretty impressive.

But I don't come away thinking about anything except Thank goodness I've seen that now and I can move on.

Sure, it turns up the tension. But I don't know anything more about bomb-defusing, war, this present conflict, or the pressures men face on the front lines. I don't know anything new about adrenalin junkies. It felt like most of Blackhawk Down felt to me; impressively convincing, but so what? Yeah, that's probably what it's like to be at war, and yeah, Katherine Bigelow, you've shown what we already suspected -- that a woman can make a nerve-wracking war movie too. But In retrospect, I wish I'd spent my open afternoon with a different film, something I might still be thinking about instead of trying to put behind me.

Maybe it's just me, but movies about machismo, testosterone, and adrenaline don't do much for me. Never have.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Maybe it's just me, but movies about machismo, testosterone, and adrenaline don't do much for me. Never have.

Same issues you have with Michael Mann movies, no? I share some of these reservations. I don't long to see The Hurt Locker again, although I think its closing chapter -- which some reviews I've seen cite as the movie's one weakness -- is among its best moments. The idea that James

is cracking psychologically

has been curiously overlooked in many of the reviews that focus on the film's action sequences and tension.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I find a lot more to think about than machismo and adrenaline in Mann films. But I agree with you that the last five minutes are some of the best in Hurt Locker. I remember thinking, "Ahh, finally, the movie is getting somewhere."


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Chris Orr:

As it suggests at the outset, The Hurt Locker is the story of an addict, but the film itself is complicit in the addiction. Even when James


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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This film opened in Vancouver a week ago, and it expanded to one of the suburban theatres this week, so I finally caught it a couple nights ago -- and I liked it a lot. Definitely wouldn't mind seeing it again.

And those last five-ten minutes (which were apparently

filmed in Vancouver

, huh) ... wowzers. I really don't know how different my reaction would have been if I had seen this film a few years ago, but now?

Show hidden text
Like, yesterday, last night, I sat on the patio with my wife and all three kids and watched the thunderclouds roll in. I often miss home when I'm away from home -- even at the movies -- and, as noisy and troublesome as my kids can be, I enjoy being with them. I look forward to being with them. And I can't begin to imagine leaving them -- voluntarily! -- to put my life in jeapordy the way this character does. I really, really can't imagine it. And I felt for that baby, I really did, knowing that its dad cared more about flirting with death -- and possibly dying -- than spending time with it. (Sorry about the "it", I can't remember whether the baby was a boy or a girl.)

And FWIW, I definitely like the way those final scenes put an interesting twist on the

days-left-in-their-mission subtitle

device.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Mark Hemingway - National Review - Finally, a good movie about the Iraq War:
"... After six years, dozens of attempts, and hundreds of millions of dollars wasted, Hollywood has finally produced a decent film about the Iraq War. Director Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, which opens in wide release this weekend, is not a straight depiction of American heroism; but it is a revelatory examination of the experiences and motivations of U.S. soldiers. The movie follows an Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit in Iraq. Needless to say, the American servicemen tasked with defusing bombs are extraordinarily skilled and brave. However, such tense and dangerous work can take an enormous psychological toll on those willing to do it ...


Mark Boal also deserves credit for penning a first-rate script. Boal is not a Hollywood screenwriter, and thank goodness for that. He is a journalist who was embedded with an EOD team in Iraq, and his commitment to portraying the experiences of the characters keeps politics and moral relativism from creeping into the story. While U.S. troops are not depicted as perfect angels, they are shown fighting an enemy that manipulates children and forces people to become suicide bombers against their will. Boal clearly has a gift for characterization, and that holds together what would otherwise be a disjointed story ..."

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Defusing bombs and myths

One word keeps appearing in reviews of The Hurt Locker, the new, critically acclaimed war film: realism.

"Realism is the special effect," was the title of one article about the film's producers. "Realism makes for explosive cinema," read the headline of the Chicago Sun-Times review of the film, which follows a three-member Army Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team over the last 38 days of its 2004 Baghdad deployment.

Actual EOD technicians have been surprised by the description. So was I, a former Army airborne combat engineer (whose job included blowing things up) and journalist who embedded briefly in 2005 with Navy-Marine EOD specialists near Fallujah. . . .

But back to The Hurt Locker --which, despite all the above-enumerated flaws, is still a damn good movie. What I was really looking for -- besides the action, that is -- was respectful treatment of the U. S. soldier in Iraq, as professional a fighter as the United States has ever deployed. And here the term "realism" truly is deservedly applied. . . .

Michael Fumento, National Post, August 6


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Saw this yesterday and still trying to process it. But I thought it was amazing and think it should be required viewing for non-military family Americans. I believe it's that important of a movie.

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Might as well link to some discussion on Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark, as I doubt it will ever receive a thread of its own. Link.

Link to Point Break discussion as well.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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"I am convinced that the storyline of this year's Oscars is that a woman will win a Best Director Oscar for the first time," says director Rod Lurie (Straw Dogs, Nothing But The Truth), "and for a war film!" He's speaking, of course, of Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow, who's been steadily gathering award-season estime and is now only a few steps away from making history.
Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I've been waiting and waiting for some reputable critic to stand up and say "What the heck is so great about The Hurt Locker?"

I came away so underwhelmed that I can't muster the passion to write anything detailed about it. Suffice it to say that it was well acted, adequately convincing, and, at the very last minute, thought-provoking. But everything that came before felt like so many other war movies that announce their importance but don't actually ask questions or break the mold. Every turn felt familiar to me, it lost me the same way that District 9 lost me... by shifting its M.O. from chapter to chapter. Is it a docu-realistic treatment of how our soldiers solve problems? Is it a character sketch? Is it a thriller in the mode of The Kingdom or the upcoming Greengrass/Damon deal? And the concluding scenes, while by far the most interesting in the film for me, seemed to come out of nowhere, as if the film had suddenly decided, too late, what it really wanted to be about.

Anyway, I'm already running out of steam to say more.

So... here's Sicinski. Finally, somebody who makes me think that maybe I didn't miss anything after all.

(My money, if I had any, would be on this one to take the Oscar, by the way.)

I've been debating whether or not to write anything about The Hurt Locker, given that I am one of the only human beings currently residing on Planet Earth who is anything less than enraptured with this film. Given this fact, I suspect my readers may be anxious to rip into any arguments I might make, and so the pressure's on to be 110% cogent and, where possible, support my assessment with concrete details from Bigelow's film. Am I prepared to do this? In an ideal world, a second viewing (preferably in a movie theatre) would precede any jump into the breach, but the world I'm living in, though many things, is hardly perfect. Having said all that, I do feel reasonably firm in the validity of my reactions, even though I do plan to see Hurt Locker again when I can. I'd like to at least give myself the chance to locate the magnificence so many others have embraced.

First of all, I think something should be said about Bigelow as a director, and her direction of The Hurt Locker in particular. The going line in the film and entertainment media is that Bigelow has been a criminally underrated master filmmaker for decades and has now delivered what may be her undeniable masterpiece. Her time has come, etc. A large part of the Bigelow mystique, especially among the egghead cinema cognoscenti, comes back to a few concrete elements that, we are told, make her work quite special. One, of course, is that she is probably the only woman in Hollywood making medium- to large-budget studio films, usually in the action genre. So one of the primary questions around Bigelow stems from feminism: Since Bigelow works in predominantly male genres, how does she tweak them or work against formula to create difference from the big-budget Hollywood model? The idea is that Bigelow brings a feminist perspective to ordinary projects, and leads somewhat directly to the other major critical truism about Bigelow: Her work as a painter has given her a uniquely formed compositional eye. Everybody is always looking for difference in Bigelow's work, assuming that it must be there, But both of these questions, while valid, seem to me to be consistently overstated in order to solidify Bigelow as a kind of pantheon figure.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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On the other hand, Ebert lists it as the second best film of the decade:

2. "The Hurt Locker" (2009). A film that concerns not the war but the warrior. It's set in Iraq, and by nature we identify with the hero, James (Jeremy Renner). But it focuses not on the enemy but on the bomb disposal expert himself, who risks his life hundreds of times when the slightest mistake would mean maiming or death. "War is a drug," the opening titles tell us. The man's comrades are angry with him for the chances he takes. He considers bomb disposal a battle of the wits between himself and the designer. Yes, but the designer is not there if a bomb explodes. He is. Yet he volunteers.

The others in his group are professional soldiers. They're good at their jobs, faithful to their mission, and prudently follow military procedure. James's behavior is an affront to them, mocking their caution. That is Bigelow's most effective device: Instead of objectifying the enemy, she internalizes the fear. The anxiety of the the men about James is infectious. They fear, and we fear. They grow restless and resentful, and it enhances his danger.

Apart from this psychological process, Katherine Bigelow's film has a masterful command of editing, tempo, character and photography. Using no stunts and CGI, she creates a convincing portrayal of the conditions a man like James faces. She builds with classical tools. She evokes suspense, dread, identification. She asks if a man like James requires such a fearsome job. The film is a triumph of theme and execution, and very nearly flawless.


Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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Overstreet wrote:

: (My money, if I had any, would be on this one to take the Oscar, by the way.)

Based on the critical acclaim, I can understand that prediction; but it seems like a long shot to me, if only because of the poor box-office.

I know, I know, box-office shouldn't enter into our considerations of "art", but this is the Oscars we're talking about: a set of awards given BY the industry TO the industry, and thus somewhat reflective of what the INDUSTRY deems to be its best work. And, inevitably, box-office considerations come into play. Oh, sure, you won't see Transformers winning Best Picture any day soon, because everyone within the industry knows that it was never made with awards in mind; but, well, without at least SOME significant box-office success, the winner might seem trivial, irrelevant, not "significant" enough to the broader population, etc., etc.

For the last few years -- most recently one year ago -- I have noted that pretty much every Best Picture winner in my lifetime (going back to 1970) has been one of the Top 25 films of the year in North America; the only exceptions are Crash (2005, #49) and No Country for Old Men (2007, #36 -- but it was the top-grossing Coen brothers movie ever). The Hurt Locker, meanwhile, currently ranks #128 on this year's chart.

And if we're looking at raw dollar figures, unadjusted for inflation, then the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner in my lifetime is Annie Hall (1977, $38.3 million). The Hurt Locker, meanwhile, has earned only $12.7 million so far -- and the dollar today isn't what it used to be 32 years ago.

Nothing would make me happier than to see the Academy throw box-office considerations out the window, but I don't expect that to happen just yet.

Sicinski wrote:

: One, of course, is that she is probably the only woman in Hollywood making medium- to large-budget studio films, usually in the action genre.

That's an ironic comment, in this context, since The Hurt Locker is an independent film that didn't have a distributor until it played the Toronto film festival in 2008. (The distributor it got was the indie outfit Summit Entertainment -- and it is one of their lowest-grossing films so far.) I don't know what the movie's budget was, but I'm guessing it wasn't THAT big.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I skipped The Hurt Locker during its brief run in Knoxville, mostly because when it played at TIFF, no one cared. The handful of critics I spoke to who saw it there just kind of shrugged their shoulders. Jeffrey, I'm also really surprised to see it coming out on top of so many year-end lists. Cynically, I wonder if there's something of a "Bush is gone and the wars are over (they're not much on the news anymore, at least -- Tiger Woods had sex!), so isn't it about time that we acknowledge all of that nasty stuff happened way back then, and Bigelow's given us an 'apolitical' film that avoids all of that nasty finger-pointing and yelling, so let's pick this one" attitude to it all. Like I said -- cynical.

But it's sitting atop my Netflix queue, so I guess I should keep my mouth shut for another week or two.

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FWIW, Bordwell had this to say back when the critical consensus was finishing its first breath:

I found the snatch-and-grab look far more distracting in The Hurt Locker. Kathryn Bigelow has directed several first-rate movies, notably Near Dark (where she used a tripod), Blue Steel (ditto), and Point Break(tripod mostly). On this project, she seemed to me to be doing more conventional work. There are the titles telling us that time is running out (”16 Days Left”). There’s classic redundancy of characterization, as when we’re told that James is a hot dogger–”He’s reckless!” “You’re a wild man!”–as we watch him be all that he can be, and more. There’s the hapless kid who is so near to the end of his tour that you know he’s a marked man. There are even aching slow-mo replays of explosions bowling guys to the camera. What if war films gave up this convention and just showed bombs going off and bodies hurled around as fast as in reality? Might war look a little less picturesque?

The camera is locked down for these iconic slow-mo shots, but most of the scenes are handled in heat-seeking pans, artful misframings, chopped-off zooms, and would-be snapfocusing that can’t find something to fasten on. The editing plucks out bits of local color and sprinkles in some glimpses of onlookers that tend to turn them into props. I’ve tried to show elsewhere that this trend in rough-hewn technique nonetheless adheres to the conventions of classical style: establishing/ reestablishing shots, eyelines, reactions, and close-ups to underscore story points. Even wavering rack-focus can still orient us to the action quite clearly.

The question is what the harsher surface adds, especially when it’s so pervasive. Habituation is one of the best-proven phenomena in psychology, and movies like this seem to prove that it works. After the first few minutes, we’ve adapted to any visceral punch that the Unsteadicam hopes to provide. Maybe it serves to ratchet up suspense? Doubtful. A director would have to be a real duffer to dissipate suspense in a movie about dismantling an explosive device. The trick is to do something different, as in bomb-disposal movies like the Chinese Old Fish and the British Small Back Room.

Still, the plot is decently engaging, and there’s a taut, unpredictable siege in the desert. That long sequence displays a disciplined interplay of optical viewpoints, a sense of constantly revised tactics, a new aspect of James’s leadership style, and nice details about sharing juice boxes. In another era, The Hurt Locker would have been a studio picture in the vein of Anthony Mann’s bleak Men in War. I suppose it shows that yesterday’s genre film, executed with conviction and a certain edginess, can become today’s art movie.

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I've been waiting and waiting for some reputable critic to stand up and say "What the heck is so great about The Hurt Locker?"

I came away so underwhelmed that I can't muster the passion to write anything detailed about it. Suffice it to say that it was well acted, adequately convincing, and, at the very last minute, thought-provoking. But everything that came before felt like so many other war movies that announce their importance but don't actually ask questions or break the mold. Every turn felt familiar to me, it lost me the same way that District 9 lost me... by shifting its M.O. from chapter to chapter. Is it a docu-realistic treatment of how our soldiers solve problems? Is it a character sketch? Is it a thriller in the mode of The Kingdom or the upcoming Greengrass/Damon deal? And the concluding scenes, while by far the most interesting in the film for me, seemed to come out of nowhere, as if the film had suddenly decided, too late, what it really wanted to be about.

I just finally saw this.  I bought the DVD when it came out, but took awhile to muster the mood to be able to watch it. I'd say it's pretty high quality.  Along with the HBO miniseries, Generation Kill, this ranks at the very top of the "second war in Iraq" films that I've seen in accuracy. I was deployed to Iraq for a year myself, so maybe I just identified with the characters more than other critics who were looking at how well the story was put together. The acting is great.  The atmosphere feels stifling. It's a high-testosterone, high-pressure, uncomfortable place to be. It should feel a little oppressive. And yet some guys do get addicted to it.

My favorite moment of the film was in the grocery store.  The scene shows how adjusting from military to civilian life often seems so completely ludicrous. When you come back, there are a whole number of things that simply don't matter anymore. Like the main character, I know plenty of other guys who hated adjusting back so much that they have volunteered and gone on a second, third, and even a fourth deployment. I get it and I don't get it. But this is the first film I've ever seen that's even touched on the subject.

 

Docu-realistic treatment on the subject, character sketch or thriller? I'd describe it as just a pretty good look at how being over there is going to affect and change how you look at the world afterwards. Watching this can at least give everyone some idea of that. So ... I'd recommend it.

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I found Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker an impressive little film, and I’m saying little purposely. Centering the story on the three man EOD squad with no real opposing antagonist focused all my attention on the three characters, and not the plotting. I think that choice, while restricting the film to the personal and not necessarily political swirl surrounding Iraq, locates this movie in a classic genre vein and as an instant classic of the genre. Its Das Boot for our modern wars. The central conceit, that SGT James endangers his crew, SGT Sanborn and SPC Eldredge, for his own addictive needs, I thought was handled quite deftly. There’s not too much subtlety to that conceit, and even though I noticed Christian wondering why James’s possible unfurling mental state wasn’t addressed by more critics, I thought the film was very upfront with it. James is messed up, not so much morally—he’s attempting to do the right thing for the larger mission, and engages the occupied people with more dignity than is seen by many of the other soldiers in the film—but psychologically. He’s a junkie—a thrill junkie, adrenalin junkie or whatever. As Bigelow’s title card lays it out for the audience, war is a drug.

I loved the relationship between Sanborn and James. So much tension, even to the point of Sanborn half-heartedly considering blowing him up, but what a rich relationship is crafted by the actors! The tight wound Sanborn wants to be like James even as he’s repulsed by much of what James is all about and knows that this dude is crazy. James looks at Sanborn with a mixture of longing for his desired stability and contempt for it (note the scene back in the base when the drunken Sanborn asks James if he’s got what it takes to put on the suit).

I also liked what the film had to say about the nature of leadership. So many war films seem to have a sense of leadership in which a charismatic figure urges his men on to victory, and the men respond with a sense of duty and love (Glory, for example, as Col Shaw wins the respect of his staff and his soldiers by being a noble and proud man, both of his company and of his principles). But here, in The Hurt Locker, James’ leadership was a great mix of positive reinforcement and tension breaking (the joking, the juice box, the encouragement to Eldredge to make the call) to the questionable (its only because of his earlier work with the squad that gets them to follow him on the disastrous fool’s errand into the oil tankers). The men are forced to toss and turn with his calls, and this shifting credibility, the “is he or is he not crazy” aspect, that I think really hits home on real on the ground leadership. Sure James is charismatic, but he’s also clearly and somewhat passionately off kilter. His presence demands following, but his actions cause enough angst among Eldredge and Sanborn that this serves somewhat as a metaphor for the US involvement in Iraq. It’s a fool’s errand, right, with the thrill of battle, not victory, as the goal.

Some of the criticisms THL is receiving are undoubtably deserving, and some of my own include the idea that this EOD squad seems to be mainly an autonomous unit—is there no chain of command that reins in James’s more impulsive maneuvers? But the claustrophobic and personal feel of the film, as well as the open ended questions its leaves us with, make this one an instant classic.

Edited by Buckeye Jones

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Some of the criticisms THL is receiving are undoubtably deserving, and some of my own include the idea that this EOD squad seems to be mainly an autonomous unit—is there no chain of command that reigns in James’s more impulsive maneuvers? But the claustrophobic and personal feel of the film, as well as the open ended questions its leaves us with, make this one an instant classic.

Agreed. Really...I apreciated far more in this film than I did not.


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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