Sunday, July 19, 2009


Friday Movie Review (quite late) The Hurt Locker

Finally got to the new Kathryn Bigelow action flick, The Hurt Locker, and it was pretty good. Finally there's a watchable movie about the soon-to-end Iraq War (or Gulf War II--depending on the breadth of your historical knowledge). It was set in 2004, when things were going badly (and a year before You Tube existed--oops).

This is not to say that the movie is without mistakes, anachronisms, cliches and a sometimes weak script, but it does a lot more right and for once it seems, doesn't have a mewling lefty bitch tone about the politics of the war. Thank God for small favors. It's also pretty tense and drags you in to the "drug" of war that keeps you craving more action, bigger explosions.

Bigelow is known for her great near start of Near Dark, a new sort of vampire flick, which I liked quite a bit until I saw it again recently. She followed that up with the quite decent Point Break but then she absolutely blew the chance to make a reasonably good science fiction film out of Strange Days. She came halfway back with Soviet submarine film, K-19. A lot of people go all slack jawed that a woman can make such hard edged action pieces, but I'm not that much a chauvinist--of course a woman director can make good action flicks. What would stop her? Men make good romantic films. You get the point; she gets no slack for being a woman.

The key to this film is Guy Pierce's replacement Jeremy Renner, who was the sympathetic sniper in 28 Weeks Later and the unsympathetic dead serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. He's supposed to be a Staff Sergeant but he wears a Sergeant First Class badge on his helmet. Still he nails the role as a reckless/fearless war lover who cannot live in the calm of peace (quite the cliche from several films over the past 50 years). But you like the guy, kinda, and you want him to survive, and pulling for him gets you from one set piece to another to the end with your sympathy intact. He's pretty endearing with the full colonel, David Morse, praising and quizzing him at the not bombed out UN building.

But man is he reckless. I tend to think that the Explosive Ordinance Disposal don't have to provide their own crowd control or cordoning off, but these guys go deep after the enemy alone, clear bomb factories and generally just roam around alone in a slightly up armored Humvee.

Let's talk about the counter sniper scene. To paraphrase Butch Cassidy, who were those guys led by Ralph Fiennes? SAS? Contractors like Blackwater? Straight mercenaries? Very weird. They sure are slow to get the Barrett .50 cal into play (although our guys move even slower and are only fair shots). But the power of the BMG round wins the day and the Druganov holding Iraqi sniper keeps a death grip on his gun. Little silly that. We've seen what .50 BMG does to real targets in Afghanistan. It nearly quarters them on the death porn tapes on the web. Still it's Insurgents 3, Americans 4. There's too much about wiping the blood off the rounds and too little about countersniper protocols. Our guys are too slow to get rounds downrange, but I guess that's because they are engineers, not infantry. For all it's shortcomings, the scene has a lot of power and sticks with you. Where were the guys with the mortars though?

I could go on and on the mistakes I saw, but verisimilitude is apparently not the raison d'etre for Ms. Bigelow. She wants to show what it takes to be a warrior and the price you pay for it; and by and large she is successful. I recommend this without hesitation, unless you served in Iraq in 2004. It might be too Hollywood for you veterans, although it's not Hollywood at all.

Oh and as I recall, being in the Hurt Locker is Marine slang from at least Viet Nam, perhaps before that, and it really doesn't need translation. You know when you're in it.


Thanks Rog.

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