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Monday, March 8, 2010

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

 

What motivates people to want to go to war? In our generation, it is most likely the 9/11 attacks that have encouraged thousands of American men and women to join the military. The wars that we have fought over the last two decades are different in that respect-- no draft, all-volunteer.  Some people join because they want to pay for college. Some people join because of family tradition. Others join because they are addicted to the legal substance known as adrenaline. 

The Hurt Locker opens with a quote by war correspondent Chris Hedges: "The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug." This is the quote that applies to the film's protagonist, Sgt First Class William James. He diffuses bombs; over 800 in his time in the military. He is gifted, but he is reckless; he is a team-leader, with the two members of his team (Sgt Sanborn and Specialist Eldridge) lacking trust in him. And we spend the bulk of the movie waiting for this guy to mess up. Of course, we don't want him to mess up-- wouldn't be much of a movie if he did (unless they are going for a "Psycho"-like moment; most people had no idea what would happen to Marion Crane...) It's like watching a NASCAR race...sure, you wanna see someone win, but you're also waiting for that moment, that seems so inevitable, that one or a few of those cars are going to crash...and could possibly kill the driver(s).  

That's one of the things that makes this movie to effective-- it FEELS real. All of the characters in this film are real. There are no outrageous caricatures, or clichés, or stereotypes that you would find in other war movies (like, say, Avatar). There are people that had real lives before they got sucked up in the shit storm of war. And these are real people dealing with real situations; uncertainty of over-all mission, shoddy equipment/vehicles...all the unglamorous sides that we never see. It's no surprise that the US Military found it more advantageous to aide in the production of the latest Transformers movie, and not this one; if it's Michael Bay, apple-pie and the Star Spangled Banner will be shot up your ass for that optimum American feeling! The Hurt Locker was a little too real for them. Not at all anti-American...but at the same time not too shy about telling it like it is, ass-kissing aside.

You hear so much about IDEs on the news, and how dangerous they are...but until you see or feel it in context, you really have no idea. This would have been an intense film to see in 3D, for sure! Talk about enhancing the experience! There's a great scene of Sgt James practically disassembling a car by hand to find a trigger for multiple canister IDEs that would, as he put it, "...blow us all to Jesus."

This is the latest of contemporary war movies that I have come to really enjoy. It's a movie not about the war, but about how people deal with the situations they've been given in this war. There is no talk of politics, or philosophical speculation...these are people just trying to get through their tour in one piece.

Last night, this film won 6 Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture. I was afraid that another film was going to win instead; not that I don't like the other film, I did like it...but this film is better. And well-deserved. Many people are making a big deal out of the fact that Bigelow and Cameron were married at one point. I don't think that gossipy crap really matters much. They are both clearly very talented people. In a time when people place much importance on big budget spectacle...it's just nice to see something of a considerably smaller scale, and in some cases better execution, do well.

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