Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Hurt Locker

This movie was off my radar until I watched a clip of the first 7 minutes released online. The scene was riveting, and a realistic rendering of the people and environment of Iraq. Even though a film like this normally waits for my very long Netflix queue, I decided it was very worth my time even though the movie is only in limited release.


The movie was filmed in Jordan and Kuwait; I had to check because the environments were so realistic. My wife commented on the trash and asked how you could tell what was trash and what was a bomb. Even the windows on the Humvees were scratched. The film never felt the need to clean itself up. There weren’t any moments when the environment took me out of the movie and made me question the locations.

I could not find information on who did the pyro, but I think it is safe to assume it was all practical. The high-speed camera work was done by Third Eye FX. After Transformers, slow motion would have made me twitch but for this movie it worked. There is a phenomenon in combat where time seems to slow. I don’t know if it was intentional, but in the opening scene the effect put me in the moment. I felt like I was there chasing down the man with the cell phone. I felt like I was diving for cover. When the bomb is detonated the dirt and rocks seem to float up off the ground from the shock wave. It is both beautiful and brutal.

The only thing I questioned about the movie visually was the timeline. It was said to take place in 2004, but the uniforms were the new ACUs and not DCUs, and in one scene they are playing Gears of War, which came out in 2006. It is a small detail; I don’t think the spirit of the movie was to be a documentary but to explore the heart of war. It could have been any moment with any group of soldiers. The film started with a quote implying the drug-like nature of war. The film seemed to explore that idea and the visuals served that task.


The dialogue and interaction were perfect. The yelling children who have learned the cruder side of the English language from soldiers who think it is cute. The watching figures stand on the sides with blank faces so their real intent is never clear. The banter between soldiers.

There is a scene where a colonel parades onto the battlefield as if exploring a combat-themed amusement park. There is another tragic story arc with an officer who leaves the safety of the base to ride along with the EOD team. I thought both were powerful examples that explored the sharp contrast between the intellectual textbook understanding of war and real experience in the environment of war. I have very strong concerns about the difference in training and experience between non-commissioned officers and officers who, barely out of school, take command of experienced soldiers. Green to gold should be the only way to become a combat officer. *end rant*

The enemy is faceless and nothing is resolved. The Hurt Locker is a deep, well-constructed film. It is not the feel-good movie of the year, but it will make you think.

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