The Hurt Locker

When we first invaded Iraq I admit I was definitely excited for the war. I realize that's a bad thing to say. But I admit it. Explosions! Big ass guns! Foreign place! Helicopters! Humvees! Tracer fire! Strategy! Both shock and awe! To my entertainmensentized brain the human factor came in an embarrassing distant second. And not personally knowing anyone overseas probably factored into my removed attitude as everything was sort of abstract. Movie soldiers and real-life soldiers kind of blurred into one kick-ass image.

But once the fake war ended and the real war unraveled-- TV coverage tuckedtail and started to fade and blur.  Nothing could be trusted via the news. Desperate for information I actually turned to books! Forced to provide my own detailed coverage and create my own images via reading. But I felt cheated out of seeing the war. Where was the coverage? I wanted to see more. Hear more. I wanted to know more soldiers. From the front-line to the kitchen-line. I was curious to the overall army process. Basically I wanted a 24/7 cable channel 100% dedicated to covering this war and our soldiers in all details. WarTV. But we got none of that. We get a scrubbed up version where death is hidden, injuries are sidebarred and the bigger package was boxed it up with catch phrases and gift wrapped in boredom. Woolited for our own protection as we were told we can't handle the truth about war.

So when the first Hollywood movies started to trickle out I was excited for some visuals and emotions. I'd settle for some artificial flavor if we were going to be deprived of the real taste. But movie after movie chickened out or tiptoed around the actual war itself. In the Valley of Elah (barely passable), Redacted (terrible), Grace is Gone (pass), and Jarhead (a retroized tease). All watered way down. All forgettable or messy. No documentary rose to the top either. I guess the 'too soon' problem kept anyone from making a straight out modern war movie. Like it would be considered poor taste considering the war was ongoing... or something.

If kids being raised today are being painted with this picture of war-- they're obviously getting the wrong idea. (Which isn't good for preventing future wars). It doesn't seem so bad. Soldiers always seem to be shooting at stuff safe behind an old stone wall. They're overgunned.  IED explosions are seen only from a distance via the eyes of the enemy. Market explosion videos are after the fact. And death is just a number. Two? Nine? Is there really a difference between two soldiers dead and nine dead? Not really to the detached average american. But if two people got shot at the local 7-11 it would be a big deal. If nine got killed?! National news! I realize soldiers volunteer and war is war-- but the difference between nine dead at the 7-11 and nine dead over there is a world way emotionally. There's a disturbing value imbalance here. And by not presenting war in a true light is where that devaluation begins.

Anyway, when I first started hearing about The Hurt Locker I was relieved. For better or worse, rumor was someone got the balls to make something 'real'. And when I saw it appear in the theater down the street I headed there for a 4PM showing yesterday. Fortunately I wasn't disappointed. This wasn't a Hollywooden version of the war. This was a realistic(ish) snapshot. And long overdue. The first ten minutes of this flick my mouth hung open in awe of the 'job' these guys have. The camera stylings weren't polished and fancy. The actors weren't distracting. And the explosions didn't give me wide-eyed action coolio tingles-- they gave me gut dread. Proper-like. And the looming threat of constantly feeling on guard ratcheted up fears. The feeling of not really being able to trust anyone trusted was drymouthing. You're not on your turf. You're foreign. You're threatened. The slightest weirdo movement a cause for alarm. Permanent mistakes are too easy to make. Even when nothing was going on there was a pulsing nervebuzz. And it gave room for our emotions to gather respectable steam.

However, this movie is unfortunately flawed. Once we get past the first half of this flick which is really rock solid-- it starts to wander a bit. It strays and lets us off the hook. Our main guys feel too isolated from the bigger army. The eventual rogue field actions become a little questionable and even far-fetched. The left field angle of family at home seems to be just a device to round out personality. Like a requirement. And when the bomb tension started to fade it wasn't replaced properly. The sidebar situations did feel a bit like filler. I would have preferred straight silent boredom or average routine during the downtime. It would have probably jammed home the war on/war off realism.

That being said, this is blatantly the most important movie so far this year. Most likely will get a best picture nomination and a win for best director. Maybe this is chauvinistic of me but I thought it was extra coolio that it took a woman director to finally cross over a film about this war. I took some weird pride in the idea that when you see the ground pebbles rumble up that it wasn't not some Michael Bay douchery tugging wang at the action. Maybe it did take the subtle grace of a woman to succeed in connecting this first crossover. Although it's probably basically sexist for me to even factor that.

Three Good Things About this Movie

- The astronauty blastsuit walks were always amazing to watch.
- The actors were all solid across the board.
- It nails intense.

Three Bad Things About this Movie

- The Ralph Finnes reveal seemed a bit showy and weird.
- The main character was sometimes unrealistically reckless.
- Was hard to imagine the three straying off the way they did.

All in all, this movie is the best movie this year. I wish I felt like I could give it four cookays but there was just too many things that knocked it down a half of a notch. But after a long string of whatevery flicks or junkfood stuff-- it was refreshing and weirdly soothing to see something that carried such impact. And if people are concerned about it being in some way inappropriate or exploitative-- I think that should be left to soldiers to decide. And my guess is they'll think this movie is pretty friggin kick-ass.

The emotional evocation of a more honest salute is sadly overdue.