"The Hurt Locker:" the experts speak

I don't think any film has scored any higher than Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" this year at Metacritic  (a 93) or Rotten Tomatoes  (97% fresh), but there are dissenters.

 Like Breitbart's Alexander Marlow, who describes his credentials for reviewing the film as:

 "I am a young man, athletic, incredibly attractive, and spent three-and-a-half years fending off hippies in Berkeley.  I have not ruled out a stint in the military. The question I ask myself frequently is why would I put my life on the line?"

His own unwillingness to serve in a war he seemingly supports whole-heartedly aside, Marlow says this question of motivation is not answered about "The Hurt Locker"'s  protagonist, Sgt. James. He is depicted as a war junkie, and Marlow points out: 

"Incredibly, the mainstream media is trying to position ‘The Hurt Locker' as politically neutral.  The mainstream media are dense. ‘War is a drug.' [quoting the film's epigraph taken from a Chris Hedges book] Drugs are bad.  Thus, war is bad.  This is a left-wing film.  End of story."

Well, maybe not, as this blogger, himself a veteran of Iraq, responds to Marlow's review:

"If war is a drug, and drugs are inherently bad, then war is bad, and eureka! Marlow dug long and hard enough find a nugget of anti-war, leftist, Hollyweird propaganda. By applying the phrase to a peculiar model of moral and political equivalence, Marlow tries to shove the square peg through the round circle to make a claim about the movie's secret perspective.

"... War is indeed is a drug, a horribly destructive thing men do to themselves that gives a rush unlike anything you can find on this planet. I've never had heroin or cocaine, but I bet it hovers near the feeling of a sniper's bullet missing your head by inches. Or the tremor in your guts when you have a live body in your sights - how the world drops away, and there isn't a thing on the planet that matters more than you, him and the rifle in your hands. And when those rounds explode out of the barrel in a brilliant flash and the acrid smell of gunpowder burns your nostrils, you know that no amount of skydiving or drag racing or sex will ever come close to what war makes you feel in your bones. That's why I can't stop getting speeding tickets or rewatching old videos from my deployment. I want that feeling back. I haven't kicked the war habit yet."

Like Marlow, I've never been in a war. But this guy has, and I think we both agree that Bigelow's intention in the film was to dramatize the point of view and experience he articulated above and that she succeeds remarkably and without judgmental moralizing or ideological manipulation.

Also on Breitbart, John Nolte sums up:

"No, I've never been in the military, but when a film's over I surely know what my opinion of the characters just portrayed up on that screen is, and I've seen this movie twice now trying to reconcile how everything listed above can add up to most every review labeling ‘The Hurt Locker' as ‘apolitical.'

"Has Hollywood so worn us out that we've dumbed ‘apolitical'  down to the point where this portrayal of our Iraqi allies, our troops and the officers who lead them qualifies? I'm not looking for John Wayne and I get battlefield cynicism. ‘Blackhawk Down' and ‘Brothers at War' do just fine by me. But when the men in the ranks display cold, casual racism, an American Colonel savagely orders that an Iraqi be left to bleed to death and a profoundly unprofessional protagonist, so demented by war he can no longer love his own son, repeatedly endangers himself and the men in his charge, I don't see ‘nuance' or ‘depth' or ‘complicated' characters. What I see is politics of the worst kind."

So do I, but it's in Nolte's review, not in the movie.

If Iraq vets have any problems with the film it has more to do with authenticity than politics. Or so it seems according to this story about troops' reactions after a screening:

"The characters seemed to grow throughout the film instead of remaining static, which kept it entertaining," said a sergeant who served in the same kind of EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) unit as the characters in the movie.  "I would tell others to go see it." But, he adds, "The issue I have with it is people are going to watch this and think it's realistic, because it looks realistic. They've got Soldiers mostly wearing uniforms the right way, they look like Soldiers and it looks like Iraq to the uninformed."

Jim O'Neil, the executive director of an EOD memorial foundation concluded in the same article:
"The vast majority of everyone I talked to enjoyed the film, and they appreciated that there is a credible EOD movie. This very dangerous field in the military has been overlooked in the entertainment industry... While there was some license taken throughout the film, we enjoyed it... It's a movie, not a training film."

Nor, apparently, is it a left wing political tract.

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