The Hurt Locker

[Screenshot]Once again, I am late to the show on an excellent film about which everyone has already said everything worth saying. I approached this one with some caution: what if I found its political attitude completely unstomachable? But to my pleased surprise it’s actually mostly palatable, message-wise. I knew I was in good hands on this front early on when we opened with a quote from Chris Hedges. There’s a fair bit of unavoidable Truffaut-effect glorification of war, but mostly the point came home (without seeming too over-the-top except in places; see below) that soldiers in combat are mostly either in way over their heads or seriously screwed up or both.

On technical issues, I feel unqualified to judge. ‘m given to understand this really wants to be seen in a theater, or at least with a theater-quality sound system, and I didn’t. Suffice to say that better people than me have judged the cinematography and found it unimpeachable. I focus mostly on thematic, tonal, and character issues, and here i found some interesting promise, because this film can’t quite find its place. It is more or less imposbbile for the leads not to look cool: they’re hard-asses doing a hard job and female bystanders are liable to experience spontaneous sex-change from all the testosterone in the air. To try to balance this out, James has to be a really really fucked up human being, and his position in the larger hierarchy seems a bit grotesque: I don’t actually know military explosive-disarming procedures, but even I can tell that he violates them all the time. The lack of any response at all from the upepr echelons bewilders me. I particularly recall this being driven home in an early interaction with a (apparently senoir) officer who brusquely asks him for his identification and report, and which I reasonably expected to end with him getting bitched out bumped to a position where he’s not making decisions abotu other people’s lives. But no, it dissolves into backslaps and handshakes and praise of the hard, hard men and their hard, hard job. I dunno. Maybe things are actually like that in the field, but if they are, that too is disturbing. Which may have been the point, but I honestly couldn’t tell which parts were meant to be taken at face value, which is what made the thematic unevenness a bit of a problem for me.

Nonetheless, it’s a pretty solid war film technically, and it’s thematically within acceptable ranges. It’s well worth seeing.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.