Dueling Film Reviews - Round One: JDub on The Hurt Locker

Posted 2/05/2010 by JDub in Labels: , , ,
People have been recommending I watch The Hurt Locker for some time now, and everyone was saying the same thing: they all loved it in spite of being sick and tired of war movies.

I too am sick and tired of war movies (and zombie/vampire movies), but we've seen Inglorious Basterds to be a fresh and compelling take on the World War II era. It is not a "war movie" per se, but rather a movie set during a war.

The Hurt Locker does use a very standard "war movie" organizing structure: the battle scene. The plot is driven by successive fights, standoffs, skirmishes, and and chases which move the characters and the viewer through the story.

But indeed there is something different about this film.. something that sets it apart from previous war movies. Sure, it may be about American soldiers in combat situations in Iraq, but it doesn't feel, function, or end in the way in which we'd expect a classic war movie to feel, function, or end.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that The Hurt Locker isn't actually a war movie at all.

The fighting and bloodshed in traditional war movies is virtually always validated in the end when the forces of good prevail over the forces of evil. The battles can only be significant and interesting if they affect some kind of change and drive the movie's plot to a resolution.

In The Hurt Locker, however, we get no sense of progress, nor do we get the sense that all of the conflict and killing is leading anywhere tangible at all. To me, it becomes a film about survival, with the number of days remaining on their detail constantly flashing on screen always reminding us how much longer they must survive, and every minute is tense.

Rather than end with a great victory or an epic honorable martyr-like death for one or more of the characters, The Hurt Locker ends more or less as it started: another day, another bomb to diffuse. There seems to be an infinite number of unexploded IED's and random insurgents, and we dont get much in the way of reason to believe the conflict will ever end at all.

Insead, I'd call The Hurt Locker a survival film set within a war. It seems to be more focused on its portrayal of Iraq post US invasion and on the effect Iraq has on the soldiers. There is hope present, somehow: not hope of an end to the conflict, but rather a simpler kind of hope that the characters will at least live to see tomorrow... but they'll just be risking it all again.

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