Fighting with the Sky

The Oscar Round: The Hurt Locker

Posted on: March 9, 2010

Having watched the Oscars this past Sunday and coming to the realization that I had only seen one of the movies nominated for Best Picture (District 9), I decided that I should watch some more of the “best movies” of last year.  While there are some that I will probably not see, at least not for a long time (Avatar and The Blind Side come to mind), a lot of them are out on dvd now, so it is pretty easy for me to get my hands on them to watch.  So in the next couple of weeks and/or months, I will be putting up my reviews of some of the Oscar-nominated films from last year.  I know, I’m a little late to the game, but better late than never I guess!

So, what better movie to start with than the one that actually won Best Picture: The Hurt Locker.

After watching The Hurt Locker, it became very clear why it won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.  I have to admit that while I was watching the Oscars, I was rooting for Kathryn Bigelow because she was a woman and The Hurt Locker because it wasn’t Avatar.  I had heard amazing things about the movie, but having not seen it myself, I was more rooting for it because of Kathryn Bigelow.

But now that I have seen it, I wish I could watch the Oscars again so that I could actually root for it for the right reason: because it deserved to win.  I know, I haven’t seen the other Best Picture nominees, but it was pretty clear from this movie that it deserved Best Picture.

For those who don’t know, The Hurt Locker follows around a three-person Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team in the Iraq War.  Jeremy Renner plays Sergeant Will James, the leader of the EOD team who was brought in after the previous team leader was killed during a mission.  James’ behavior is often considered to be reckless, especially by Sergeant Sanborn, another team member, who really likes to do things by the book, but he gets results.  Specialist Owen Eldridge is the third and youngest member of the team who struggles with the belief that he is responsible for the death of the previous team leader.

While I have never been in a war, so I can’t speak to it, what struck me about this movie was the reality of it.  It felt like these were real situations that EOD teams could be in and real struggles that soldiers face on a regular basis.  I don’t mind violence in movies because the type of movies that I watch that have violence in them tend to be sci-fi, which isn’t really realistic violence.  War movies have never really been my thing because the violence always seemed gratuitous.  Yes, I know war movies are going to have violence, but most of them seem to have unnecessary levels of violence.  One thing that I liked about The Hurt Locker is that the violence didn’t seem gratuitous.  Yes, there was a good amount of it, but it all seem realistic and not in the movie for the sake of having violence.  And for a war movie, there wasn’t actually a lot of violence in it (in comparison).  It was all about the tension of disarming bombs rather than shoot outs (which there were).  It was all about survival.

War has always been about men (I know generalization, but I am also more speaking to war movies in this case).  And yes, this movie was about men.  Men blowing things up and stopping them from blowing up, men with their big guns, male bonding, action!  In fact, we only ever saw one woman in the movie (who happened to be Evangaline Lily — Kate from Lost) — the ex-wife of James and the mother of his son.  But what was also so great about this movie about men was that it was directed by a woman.  Kathryn Bigelow showed that women can make art about war, that women are capable of understanding the struggles of war and showing those struggles in a beautiful way.

In the end, The Hurt Locker isn’t just about war, it’s about human struggle.  People struggling with the realities of their lives and realities of war.  People bonding with each other yet keeping each other at arm’s length.  People struggling to survive yet risk their lives from their drug of choice: war.  People realizing what they really want out of their lives.

“The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”

This quote from Chris Hedges, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, was displayed at the beginning of the movie and that’s really what the movie showed: war as a drug.  And The Hurt Locker shows us how humans deal with their addiction to that drug.  James is shown as the most “addicted” because of his reckless, adrenaline-seeking behavior and his decision to return to Iraq at the of the movie.  Sanborn is very straight-laced when it comes to the rules, which is how he manages his addiction.  And Eldridge’s addiction (and inexperience) ultimately get the best of him because he is unable to deal with his previous team leader’s death and the horrors that they see on a daily basis.

I would highly recommend this movie to anyone.  Even if you don’t like war movies or movies with violence.  Like I said, I’m not the biggest fan of war movies.  But this movie is so much more than a war movie.  It’s definitely hard to watch at times, but it’s definitely worth it!

Also check out the review of The Hurt Locker that is up at Bitch Flicks.

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