“The Hurt Locker” is the finest movie yet about our war in Iraq.
In the tradition of “Apocalypse Now,” it does not take sides. Like Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” upon which “Apocalypse Now” is based, Kathryn Bigelow’s film explores what is in the minds and hearts of soldiers who engage in mortal combat.
As is usually the case, war is about soldiers going at it blindly, attacking men with slightly fatter faces. No glory, little time or space for patriotic fervor. Reduce it to this formula and you get closer to the truth.
‘The Hurt Locker’
DIRECTED BY Kathryn Bigelow
SCREENPLAY BY Mark Boal
STARRING Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Evangeline Lilly, Christian Camargo
RUNNING TIME 130 minutes
“The Hurt Locker” is not about American heroism. Nor is it sympathetic to the Iraqis. There really are no bad guys or good guys, even though the American troops have to make that nominal delineation. Presumably, that’s the only way they can justify their involvement.
Bigelow, who gave us “Point Break” and “Strange Days,” serves up a scenario in which soldiers deal with terrifying tension day after day. It’s not only dealing with snipers familiar with the terrain, but zealots who plant bombs that technicians have to defuse.
Once, we observe a tense situation when an Iraqi chickens out of his appointed suicide mission to blow up an entire block. Screaming out his fears, he walks toward the Americans with explosives strapped to his body. Enough to decimate an entire block.
No conventional heroes
“The Hurt Locker” is not concerned with presenting Lee Marvin-Steve McQueen heroes, even if the leading characters fit squarely in the tradition of presenting men braving adversity. In Baghdad, there is no real battlefield. Fittingly, the primary actors are virtually unknowns.
There’s Jeremy Renner as James; Anthony Mackie as Sanborn and Brian Geraghty as Owen Eldridge. If there is an actor who steals the show, it’s Renner, who, metaphorically speaking, is himself a walking time bomb. While Sanborn and Owen back him up, he exposes them to what may strike us as unnecessary danger. In the tradition of Conrad’s Mr. Kurtz, he is a sensitive soul who roams a corridor of horror.
More than anyone else in the film, he is in danger of succumbing to the demoralization endangering everyone there.
“The Hurt Locker” does not preach, nor does it contain an overt message. But it is a powerful experience that engenders respect for men in combat. More than news reports or commentaries, it enables us to feel the terror that permeates the soul of today’s soldier called to duty.
Contact Dan DiNicola at [email protected]