Wednesday, October 10, 2012

HURT LOCKER, THE



(June 2009, U.S.)

THE HURT LOCKER begins with an opening quote on screen that is inescapable: "The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug." This is hardly a surprising revelation to the enthusiastic viewer of war films. We've seen it before in countless combat films starring John Wayne. We instantly recall Robert Duval's character of Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore in APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) whenever we hear that famous line, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning!" This, however, is the first war film I've ever seen that actually takes the necessary moment to acknowledge the hard fact of combat's impact on the soldier who can ebrace his job on the battlefield and inevitably like what he's doing.

Sergeant First Class William James (played by Jeremy Renner) is hardly John Wayne and nowhere near Sylvester Stallone. He's a man in Iraq in 2004 who's been previously battle-tested and has become expert as disarming explosives. William's maverick methods and sometimes irresponsible attitude lead his men to consider him reckless, and it's then that tensions mount between soldiers. Tensions predictably becomes comradery when men are in the field and act with bravery and valor to save each other's lives. But we must remember that this is an unpopular and unwanted war by many, many Americans (thank you, George W. Bush...asshole!). These are men that must do a hard job in a hostile land of citizens who want them either gone or dead. How do mercilessly kill the enemy and still remember to maintain your humanity? Their is a thought-provoking sequence where William befriends a young Iraqi boy who sells DVDs on the street, perhaps an attempt to hold onto his fatherly instincts, as he is the father of an infant back in the United States. When he believes that the boy was murdered and used as a human bomb, he not only feels the pain of that action, but even risks his own life to attempt some exercise in revenge. When he further learns that the boys body does NOT belong to the one he befriended, rather than express any human joy or relief, his heart appears to harden further, because it's become obvious that human attachments to children (or anyone else) in this hostile land is futile.

THE HURT LOCKER is hardly a combat film in the traditional sense. Very little shots are fires throughout the film. These are soldiers who repeatedly do the same thing nearly every day during their tour of duty. One might expect this sort of storyline to get boring after a while, but that's hardly the case. You know this is a story of men who look for and disarm bombs, and because we know that, we can't help be watch with a feeling of sick dread in our stomachs - because bombs explode and we never know when or where it will happen and who will be the victim of it. And as many war films may attempt to do, THE HURT LOCKER takes a moment to try and offer some sympathy for the enemy in the form of a "good" Iraqi family man who's been rigged with bombs attached to his body and begs the American soldiers to not allow him to die. War is hell, we know, and we also know that it's proper to hate the enemy. Iraq should never have been our enemy the second time around after the new century began. But if it HAD to happen, then I could only wish for and hope for our American soldiers to obliterate our enemies...because that's their job and I don't feel it's wrong for some of them to inevitably like what they have to do. That's my opinion.

THE HURT LOCKER won the Oscar for best picture of 2009.

Favorite line or dialogue:

JT Sanborn: "I'm not ready to die, James."
William James: "Well, you're not gonna die out here, bro."
Sanborn: "Another two inches, shrapnel zings by; slices my throat, I bleed out like a pig in the sand. Nobody'll give a shit. I mean my parents, they care, but they don't count, man. Who else? I don't even have a son."
William: "Well, you're gonna have plenty of time for that, amigo."
Sanborn: "No, man. I'm done. I want a son. I want a little boy, Will. I mean, how do you do it, you know? Take the risk?"
William: "I don't know. I guess I don't think about it."
Sanborn: "But you realize every time you suit up, every time we go out, it's life or death. You roll the dice, and you deal with it. You recognize that don't you?"
William: "Yeah, yeah, I do. But I don't know why. I don't know, JT. You know why I'm the way I am?"
Sanborn: "No, I don't."



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