RogerBW's Blog

The Hurt Locker 26 November 2022

2008 war, dir. Kathryn Bigelow, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie: IMDb / allmovie. War is a drug.

But this is Kathryn Bigelow, so she stays clear of easy answers. In fact it would be fair to say there aren't really any answers here: certainly not why it is that Sergeant James (Jeremy Renner, in a star-making role but looking much more crude and unformed than in 28 Weeks Later) is the specific sort of adrenaline junkie that he is. That's just who he is, and while it's not much fun for anyone around him, by the end he has at least accepted it.

Several people who'd worked in the field reckoned this was a very unrealistic film, though I suspect some of that is the green wall effect: you joke about other people in the Army to other people in the Army, but when an outsider's nearby you close ranks and defend them. Sure, protocol does not call for a three-person EOD team to go out with no support and mimimal radios; but I bet it sometimes happened even so. Where I think they have more of a point is in a particular sequence when James and his fellow bomb techs split up to chase down possible insurgents in the dark: that's the thing they absolutely train into you (at least in the British Army and I assume also the US), that what distinguishes an army from a mob is not how hard each individual is on his own but rather than they support each other, so you just don't do that. (I was more disconcerted by the techs using what's obviously a stock Leatherman, with steel blades, to cut fuses: that can easily generate sparks, so in the real world you use copper blades, even though you have to replace them all the time. This is true even in fireworking.)

As for the people, this felt to me like Good Morning Vietnam, with the wild and crazy guy arriving in-country – but this isn't a Robin Williams film, and he isn't presented as the model everyone should emulate. These aren't men who self-analyse, and nobody comes close to putting a finger on their problems, but lots of manly punching makes up for that. Right? Renner was made a star by this, but it's Anthony Mackie as the more "normal" soldier who really impresses me here.

And then there are some desert-related shenanigans, so of course Ralph Fiennes has to show up.

This is a modern military film which isn't either gung-ho glory or PTSD. Step back a bit, and it's clear that nobody involved has any idea why they're occupying Iraq, or what they're waiting for; they just sit there until the phone rings, then go out and defuse another IED.

Once more if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

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