I just finished watching the much raved about movie, The Hurt Locker, today. What, I wondered, could all the hype about a war movie possibly be?
It was difficult, I admit, to be absolutely impartial when watching the film, since I’m in the army and have done EOD work. When the film was over though, I felt that only someone who had never been in the military or done EOD work could think it was a great movie.
First of course, I looked for realism. Give me something besides shiny new equipment, haircuts non-compliant with AR 670-1 and someone holding a rifle like a lawn rake. The film does ok here, but it’s not perfect. For instance, the first scene has Sergeant First Class William James putting on a bomb suit and approaching a suspected IED. The bomb robot’s wagon broke, so the counter-charge couldn’t be carried to the target. Ok. I’ll buy it. Maybe. Probably not. It’s highly unlikely that someone would approach a bomb like that. The one thing–the biggest thing–that they emphasized in EOD school at Redstone Arsenal was that bomb techs must improvise. You use your head to minimize danger. EOD is the tough man’s brain-game. Physical but technical. The team most likely would have brought the robot back and found a way. Instead, William James carries the counter charge to the device, at which time he sees someone with a cell phone. James walks away from the bomb.
But he walks with his back to the bomb.
There must have been lots of technical advice on the set of this movie, because they had all the right equipment. Yet any bomb tech knows you walk backwards for several meters before turning around. All the suit’s protection is in the front–almost all of it anyways. A slow walk backwards would even have had a dramatic effect, so there can be no only-for-dramatic-effect argument. Over and over again, William James eschews the use of the bomb robot to approach, in his bomb suit, another insurgent laid Infernal Machine. William James would have likely found himself court martialed or at least supervising Privates sweeping the dining facility floors . I’ll admit this part of the story was meant to show what an adrenaline junky James was. His team mates ven consider killing him at one point because he routinely endangers them.
The bomb squad likes to use radios near bombs. RF makes some bombs go boom. This movie must have driven active bomb techs mad.
Oh yeah-his team mates. If you think that SFC James had no redeeming values, you’ll be hard pressed to find them in the other soldiers in his team. One, a Specialist, is seeing a psychiatrist because he’s worried about dying in the war. He whines, he fails to pull the trigger when he needs to. He’s paralyzed by the “hell of war.” Right. Director Kathryn Bigelow has this character telling us how bad war is. We’re rarely shown though.
The story meanders until you wonder: What’s going on? At one point the EOD team is driving through the desert and happens upon a bunch of British Mercenaries. Ah yes. Mercenaries. Like…pirates. Bad… And since they’re bad mercenaries, not only do they shoot two escaping, handcuffed prisoners in the back (of course, this could be done in war, as the prisoners could return to fighting, but we’re reminded that mercenaries are bad when one mutters something about the monetary value of the escapees, then cuts them down with a burst of gunfire), but they simply aren’t very good at fighting insurgents. One of the mercs goes prone with a .50 cal sniper rifle, takes aim on two insurgents in a small shack–and proceeds to miss by three feet. And so does one of the EOD guy who takes the rifle after pirate/mercenary catches a bullet in the gut.
All through the movie, we don’t meet one person with honor. Not one good guy. Oh sure, SFC James likes kids. He plays soccer with an Iraqi kid. But then the kid disappears and James believes Iraqis selling DVDs on base are insurgents. So James goes rogue and starts hunting insurgents on his own. All he manages is to shoot the whiny Specialist in the leg by accident, thus proving to us that: War is Bad. Gee, thanks.
Now I know I’m being tough on this highly regarded movie. But it won 22 awards. I don’t get it.
The movie gets the uniform right. It’s real army stuff. I was happy with that, as most films do an atrocious job with this, something that seems so easy. Except for the combat patches that the team members wear. All three are deployed with the same unit, but James–of course–is different; he wears a 75th Ranger Battalion combat patch.
In the end, I found that the movie was just about a guy who’s addicted to adrenaline. It took a whole movie to say this. There’s little suspense. The best thing that could have happened in the movie would have been for James to get blown up, end the movie with him being crippled, but somehow continuing in the war.
I think maybe, that papers like the New York Times drooled over this because–like Avatar– it shows military people to be weak, psychopathic, shallow and outright cowardly. Everything a good liberal would believe. Not once does it show the comradeship that comes when men share great physical danger. Not once is there a hint of professionalism. The Soldier’s Creed: I am and Expert and I am a Professional.
The cinematography was top notch so I’ll watch it again, but I think I’ll come to the same conclusions.