The Hurt Locker is so good. I know you have probably all heard that a million times by now. “It’s the Best Film About the Iraq War,” “easily the Best War Film of the Last Decade,” “I Wet My Pants it was so Fucking Good,” but I really can’t stress this enough: it is so good.
A lot of people are saying that it’s such a great movie about Iraq because it withholds judgments about the war. I think this is partially true. Meaning, it’s no Jarhead. It’s not trying to hit you over the head with it’s political philosophies (no “we’re still in the desert” lines here), but it’s also not devoid of political statements. Specifically, The Hurt Locker doesn’t really comment on the reason we’re in Iraq, George Bush, WMD, etc., it does, however, present a state of warfare that is specific to Iraq. Did soldiers in WWII use the term “body bomb” so freely? Probably not. Most poignant to the film is the way it naturally shows the making of a soldier. War sucks…most every war film manages to point that out…but not every war film can convincingly construct characters that we can believe are real soldiers.
Not that every soldier in the film is by-the-book. The rare criticisms toward the film so far have pointed out that no one would get away with being as reckless as Sgt. James. This is where Kathryn Bigelow’s influence comes in. Because, really, this movie is kind of out of left field for her. She’s always good at action movies, but usually they’re more in line with, like, Keanu Reeves catching some sweet waves (like, “Vaya con Dios, brah”). Here she still sticks her some action-packed, stressful moments, but she strings them together in a way that seems almost monotonous.
What’s crazier about Sgt. James’s situation than his extra-curricular meetings, is that he’s not the one required to seek psychological help. Specialist Eldridge sees a friend die and has to go into counseling. He comes across as a coward – not wanting to shoot people, worried about getting shot, etc. Any of us in the same situation should understand Eldridge’s motivations much better than James’s, but James is valued as a perfect solider while Eldridge is perceived as a weakling. It’s almost a relief when Eldridge is shipped out early….whew, we don’t have to worry about his sissy ass anymore.
This is one of the most openly nihilistic films I’ve seen in recent years. An overarching theme is that there is no meaning in war. Everything these men go through feels totally pointless. Not because it’s Iraq, but because it’s chaos. James gets worked up, thinking he has experienced a profound moment when a boy he has become close to is found dead. Finally he can feel emotion. But when it turns out to be a different boy, not the one James knows, even his emotion is meaningless. He is still unable to love anything but war itself. When James comes home and realizes he can’t even love his son anymore, you realize that the meaninglessness of war has extended into every day life. Lives are being sacrificed daily for political causes, and there is no meaning to any of it. Even the characters that we immediately attach meaning to – stars like Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes that show up for mere minutes in the film – are struck down without any warning. War is indiscriminate in its meaninglessness.
The Hurt Locker is one of those films that I respected so much I get angry at those that disagree with me. I read their reviews and think they’re the biggest idiots. Of course, I didn’t like A History of Violence when I first saw it, so I understand their mistake…but they are mistaken.