Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Hurt Locker: The First Iraq War Film That Worked

This article is dedicated to Conor Donahue, an Iraq War veteran.

Since 1997, I have seen all of the Best Picture nominees before the Oscars and guessed the Best Picture winner correctly in all but two years (Shakespeare In Love and Crash). This year there were 10 Best Picture nominees and the only one I still have yet to see is District 9 (which I have rented on DVD and will try to see today or tomorrow before the Oscars. But I feel that this year I am ready to guess that the Best Picture Oscar will go to The Hurt Locker instead of Avatar. Unlike last year’s Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker does not appear to have the Oscar in the bag yet, but I must still make my guess. If I am wrong, I will not edit this to say that I guess for Avatar. While neither The Hurt Locker, nor Avatar has a lock on Best Picture, this is the first year in which it appears that all four acting categories have a lock on who will win their awards (Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Mo’nique, and Christoph Waltz).

The Hurt Locker is about a soldier who disarms bombs in Iraq during the current Iraq War. There have been other films about the Iraq War, but this is the first one that is getting a lot of positive attention. I think one of the film’s strengths is that it focuses on what it is like to be a soldier in the Iraq War instead of in other wars. The majority of the deaths of soldiers in Iraq have been caused by bombs called IEDs (improvised explosion devices). The film tries to show what it is like to be in Iraq, where soldiers are more likely to be killed by a bomb than by a bullet.

The Hurt Locker is not about why we are in Iraq. The words “Bush”, “Cheney”, “WMDs”, and “9/11” are never used in the film. The film is neither pro nor anti-Iraq War. There are no anti-Iraq War comments and no comments about patriotism. The filmmaker, Kathryn Bigelow, focuses on the experience of the new style of war that we are in, and leaves the reasons why we are there to be the focus of other films.

I think that it was time for a successful Iraq War film to be made, and avoiding the reasons for the war was probably a good thing in 2009. While I was against the Iraq War from the beginning, I will admit that our nation is still divided on whether the Iraq War was necessary or not. When we eventually leave, history will render a verdict, as it has on every previous war that we have fought in.

The Vietnam War gave us many powerful films after the war had ended. I really love the films The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now, but both films came out after the war had ended. I believe that when the Iraq War is over, then we may see quality films about the politics of the war. Since we are still in the war, any films that are either support or oppose the Iraq War will be viewed more as partisan instead of historical.

The Hurt Locker gives the audience the experience of the Iraq War without the politics. That does not mean that the film is without emotion. Without going into detail, sometimes innocent people are dragged into the war.

While I predict that The Hurt Locker will win Best Picture, it would not be my personal pick. I thought that Precious was the best film of the year. I did not think that any film was as powerful and emotionally touching as Precious. While Precious is my favorite film of the year, I recommend that people see both Precious and The Hurt Locker.


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