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Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Hurt Locker

Nothing but the hurt left here.
Nothing but bullets and pain
and the bled out slumping
and all the fucks and goddamns
and Jesus Christs of the wounded.
Nothing left here but the hurt.

Believe it when you see it.
Believe it when a 12-year-old
rolls a grenade into the room.
Or when a sniper punches a hole
deep into someone’s skull.
Believe it when four men
step from a taxicab in Mosul
to shower the street in brass
and fire. Open the hurt locker
and see what there is of knives
and teeth. Open the hurt locker and learn
how rough men come hunting for souls.
- Brian Turner

The title of a recent movie is taken from the poem above. The movie is, as Wikipedia states ....

... a 2008 American award-winning war thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Shot on location in Jordan, the film is based on recently declassified information about a U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) (bomb squad) team in present day Iraq. The Hurt Locker is written by Mark Boal, a freelance writer who was embedded with a bomb squad ....

I was looking around Roger Ebert's movie site and chanced upon his review of The Hurt Locker, and though I'm not normally a fan of modern war movies, peace-nik that I am, I was intrigued enough because of the poem to read the review (4 stars) and then Ebert's blog post on the film. Here's a little from the blog post .......


"The Hurt Locker" represents a return to strong, exciting narrative. Here is a film about a bomb disposal expert that depends on character, dialogue and situation to develop almost unbearable suspense. It contains explosions, but only a few, and it is not about explosions, but about hoping that none will happen. That sense of hope is crucial. When we merely want to see stuff blowed up real good in a movie, that means the movie contains no one we give a damn about.

We care a lot about the people in "The Hurt Locker." It does what many good movies does, and gives us a feeling for the personalities and motivations of its characters. What happens to Staff Sgt. William James matters to us. He is a brave and complicated man, and we worry about him. It is a good thing he is doing. He is risking his life to defuse bombs intended to kill and maim not only military forces but random civilians.

But my purpose is not to praise "James," as everybody always calls him. It is to praise Kathryn Bigelow, who comes into full focus in this film as an artist in the classical Hollywood tradition. She is, I wrote in my review, "a master of stories about men and women who choose to be in physical danger. She cares first about the people, then about the danger." If we create a list of other directors who did that, even crusty old Howard Hawks and Sam Fuller, it is safe to say they would have admired, even envied, "The Hurt Locker."

The film's action involves James (Jeremy Renner), Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), the head of his support team, and Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), an unseasoned rookie who is scared to death half the time. These three venture in their armored vehicle into the streets of an Iraqi city to a suspected bomb site, where James puts on a cumbersome protective suit designed to shield him from a possible blast. Then he walks up to a bomb and hopes to dismantle it. He hopes the suit does its job, but there's no guarantee ......

"The Hurt Locker" is completely apolitical. It has no opinion on the war in Iraq, except that there is one, and brave men like James and Sanborn are necessary, and rookies like Eldridge of course are sometimes terrified, and will get no quicker sympathy than from veterans like Sanborn and James. In that sense, "The Hurt Locker" is arguably the most pro-Army feature to emerge from the war. Pro-Army, not pro-war. But the U.S. military declined to assist in its production or allow the film on a U.S. base, and the Bigelow team shot with its own resources in Jordan, sometimes within three miles of the Iraqi border. It was not an easy shoot. Renner speaks of boards with nails in them being dropped on them from rooftops, and he was shot at more than once .....


I don't know if I'll see the film - it's a strange thing for me, the tension between the anti-war part of me that hates violence, and the part of me that is weirdly interested by it anyway, at least in movies and books. Maybe that's the thing - modern war movies make the situation so real that I can't so easily distance myself from the violence of it, as I can in for instance Stargate Atlantis .... more grist for reflection :)

Here's the trailer ....


Blogger cowboyangel said...

I read Ebert's review, and another one that spoke highly of the film. I'd like to go see it. Unfortunately, it's not near us - at least not yet.

12:52 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi William,

Yeah, I signed up to get it from netflix but by then I probably won't remember what it's about :)

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, I disagree, this movie is not nuanced in any matter. US army rules, the rest are the bad guys. Very sad...

6:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pro-war movie by the way

6:10 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Actually, I agree with you. I never did end up watching the movie and I later wrote about how Avatar and not The Hurt Locker should have won the Academy Award ... here.

2:19 PM  

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