The Hurt Locker – so bad it hurts

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I am going to depart from my area of expertise to
discuss a film. The Hurt Locker has been hailed by conservatives and
liberals and everyone in between as the best movie about the war in Iraq to
date. I just saw it. It literally made me sick. I think that it is one of the
worst movies I have ever seen.

In truth, I don’t see many movies. I don’t recall seeing any
movies about Iraq. I watched this one because I happened to be visiting relatives
who happened to have rented it. If this is what passes as a good movie about
Iraq, then I am relieved that I haven’t seen any other Hollywood movies about
Iraq. Aside from that, the plaudits it has received tell me that people have
some horribly low standards.

The Hurt Locker is a film about a bomb disposal unit
deployed to Iraq at the height of the insurgency in 2004. Its hero is Staff
Sgt. Will James, (played expertly by Jeremy Renner) who leads a bomb disposal
squad. In scene after scene he dismantles IEDs. And that’s the problem. There
is no plot. We don’t know anything about these soldiers. We don’t know why they
joined the US Army. We don’t know how they feel about Iraq. We don’t know what
they think of Iraqis who are nothing more than background noise in the movie, except for an apropos of nothing Iraqi boy who simply reenacted the role of a South Korean boy from MASH. 

When
the movie starts we are told they are going home in a few weeks and that builds suspense about the possibility of them getting killed. Each new scene of defusing bombs is yet one day closer to home. But we don’t care about the soldiers who we are never given the opportunity to know — lest we relate to them. All we are given are GI Joes who defuse bombs. Supposedly by watching them, we are
supposed to achieve some deeper understanding of the war. But really all we see is context-free violence which teaches us nothing about war. Supposedly James is a hero. But we don’t have any idea what he’s fighting for. So why should we care about him? Indeed, how can we care about him? The only thing we can feel for him is fear. 

My sense is at The Hurt Locker was made with two target audiences in mind:
teenage boys and radical leftists. Teenage boys are everyone’s target audience
because they pay money to watch movies in theaters and then buy the DVDs and
any merchandise related to films. Teenage boys love violence – the more gratuitous,
the better. And The Hurt Locker has lots and lots of violence. In
fact all it is is violence interrupted periodically by gratuitous, generic cute kid scenes. 

As for radical leftists, The Hurt Locker works for
them because its post modern, context-free rendering of the war is a picture
perfect far left portrayal of war. No, the Americans aren’t terrible, they are nothings. And anyway, their nature is irrelevant. War is futile. There is no purpose to war except staying
alive. There is no greater good. Therefore, war is wrong because there is nothing worth fighting for What could be a better war message than that for the far left?

I’m no film critic. But I know soldiers and I know war. And
soldiers aren’t two-dimensional and war isn’t about nothing. And the war in Iraq is neither futile nor meaningless. 

The Hurt Locker was a two-dimensional film about a
meaningless war and nothing soldiers. If it weren’t up against the
anti-American, anti-Israeli 3-D allegory Avatar, I would say it was a sure bet to win
the best picture.

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23 Comments

  • Marcel 02/16/2010 at 17:43

    ‘James is a hero’
    No he’s a nut,he’s back home grocery shopping with his wife and informs her that he’s volunteered to go back for more of the adrenaline fix he doesn’t find at home with her and the baby.
    How many times in the movie was he careless in a suicidal way ?
    I think you missed why all the the big Hollywood hype over this movie.
    It’s a Kathry Bigelow film.
    The ruling leftist male feifdom of Hollywood have to throw a bone to the ladies once in a while.

    Reply
  • john haluska 02/16/2010 at 18:27

    Ah…you have done a near perfect description of the American Film/Entertainment industry and it’s relationship to how we project foreign affairs to our own (here in the states). The only thing you didn’t do was follow all the way through and mention that this is a good analogy of how we are fed news these days as well (unless you only stay tuned to Fox News). No one over here can make the connection between the good that might be happening in Iraq or else where and our involvement in these places- only how we have made a mess in such places.
    The movies and television have made it seem as though we can get “clean” energy without consequence and that liberty and freedom come with out sacrifice. It seems as though some want to erase history and forget all that we have done to not only get to where we are today but more importantly that we are at a place in time where we can voice our opinions, make cruddy movies, write cruddy articles and so on because blood has been shed, lives have been sacrificed lines have been drawn in the sand and wars have been fought… we have not gone through life, like hollywood would have us believe, without beliefs, ideals and reason… I think that the bigger picture that I get from seeing movies (I saw “The Hurt Locker”) is that some are telling us, “Don’t rock the boat and all will be fine”. Don’t do it in movies, don’t do it on t.v. and definitely don’t do it in real life. Maybe some one is hoping that the end result will have life imitating “art”. Is America just hiding it’s head in the sand? It seems so.

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  • Tehillah 02/17/2010 at 4:34

    I completely agree! I was expecting a “Black Hawk Down” experience (which, by the way, I didn’t like but watched to appease hubby and son) but was left wondering what was the message of “Hurt Locker”? It certainly wasn’t an entertaining, thought-provoking or inspirational film.

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  • naomir 02/17/2010 at 8:14

    I found your article very interesting, but your last statement was unexpected. My 16 year old grandson seems to be one of the few who actually didn’t like Avatar. He is very mature and found the film meaningless. I believe he also did see The Hurt Locker and wasn’t impressed. Is it just the mentality prevalent in today’s society or are we missing something?

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  • Joe 02/17/2010 at 15:31

    Caroline, your review is right AND wrong. Sure, there is no plot and no meaning. I guess, the movie does not really know it tells the truth, which you phrased correctly: ” War is futile. There is no purpose to war except staying alive. There is no greater good. Therefore, war is wrong because there is nothing worth fighting for”. This is what the Hollywood guys think and what they want to convey. It’s the emptiness in their minds which creates the emptiness in the film. So the movie gives an insight into an empty mind. It is, philosophically speaking, the phenomenological analysis of intellectual emptiness.

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  • Tomer Elias 02/17/2010 at 17:23

    Hey will you be posting videos of your speech at the Jerusalem Conference? could only find a short clip on Jpost but can’t get a direct link to it so I can share it. I think the message you bring there probably the most important one for everyone to hear right now so we stop focusing on illusions. I thinks its also a very important thing for people around the world to understand if we want to have any progress on changing Israel’s image when the real focus should be on the problems with the Palestinians and not us

    Reply
  • charles soper 02/17/2010 at 18:50

    Just watched your conference video at JP – all you say is true, but it’s not well edited to present your case effectively, in fact it may be calculated to discredit. Careful, JP may be changing.

    Reply
  • Torn Jewish Democrat 02/17/2010 at 22:21

    I do respect Caroline’s straightforward journalism when it comes to discussions about Israel’s security and defining best way for making sure that Eretz Israel will exist 20 years form now. I often disagree with her strong word labeling of present US Administration and “far left” groups like J Street or NIF as “enemies of the State” – but there Caroline usually outlines pretty good reasons why she feels so strongly about these policies and policy making groups. Both US and Israel are free speech democracies and people are entitles to their opinions and affiliations.
    What I strongly disagree with is when similar judgments are passed to completely apolitical areas such as art and movies. I have not yet seen the “Hurt Locker” – and I may not want to see it after this “review” after all. But I am completely against demonization of film creators as “radical leftists” only because a movie comes out not so praising towards our victorious Army in Iraq. I assume that worldwide acclaimed movies about Israeli wars like wonderful “Waltz with Bashir” by Ari Folman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waltz_with_Bashir)and “Beaufort” by Ron Leshem and Joseph Cedar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufort_(film)) would be classified as “radical left propaganda” because they portray complex and human pictures of Lebanese wars often form first hand witness perspective. I watched these movies and my respect and compassion to IDF and Israeli cause only increased because of seeing a human aspect of these very tough solders fighting a tough war.
    As for new amazing animation feature by James Cameron – “Avatar” that is labeled as “the anti-American, anti-Israeli 3-D allegory” – nobody with reasonable mind would make any SPECIFIC parallels between US or Israeli armies and greedy arrogant space resource hunters for alient planet’s resources (NOT OIL!) portrayed in the movie! 50% of all Sci-fi stories have a similar plot – mindless exploitation of alien planets’resources by greedy corporations backed up by military, but so what? I am sorry Caroline – but labeling works of art as “radical left” propaganda is no different that someone from that spectrum (which I have no respect for btw) labeling your review as “radical right wing paranoya”. Please excuse my emotions – but I am really disappointed by this latest blog.Thanks!

    Reply
  • Rory 02/18/2010 at 3:09

    I generally agree but there are probably many American servicemen who aren’t very deep…”be all you can be” is not about philosophical, religious or ethical convictions…

    Reply
  • Torn Jewish Democrat 02/18/2010 at 17:00

    I do respect Caroline’s straightforward journalism when it comes to discussions about Israel’s security and defining best way for making sure that Eretz Israel will exist 20 years form now. I often disagree with her strong word labeling of present US Administration and “far left” groups like J Street or NIF as “enemies of the State” – but there Caroline usually outlines pretty good reasons why she feels so strongly about these policies and policy making groups. Both US and Israel are free speech democracies and people are entitles to their opinions and affiliations.
    What I strongly disagree with is when similar judgments are passed to completely apolitical areas such as art and movies. I have not yet seen the “Hurt Locker” – and I may not want to see it after this “review” after all. But I am completely against demonization of film creators as “radical leftists” only because a movie comes out not so praising towards our victorious Army in Iraq. I assume that worldwide acclaimed movies about Israeli wars like wonderful “Waltz with Bashir” by Ari Folman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waltz_with_Bashir)and “Beaufort” by Ron Leshem and Joseph Cedar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufort_(film)) would be classified as “radical left propaganda” because they portray complex and human pictures of Lebanese wars often form first hand witness perspective. I watched these movies that could be classified as powerful anti-war messages – but my respect and compassion to IDF and Israeli cause only increased because of seeing a human aspect of these very tough solders fighting a tough war. Here’s an interview with Kathryn Bigelow about this Oscar nominated movie:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105826702
    As for new amazing animation feature by (her ex husband) James Cameron – “Avatar” that is labeled as “the anti-American, anti-Israeli 3-D allegory” – nobody with reasonable mind would make any SPECIFIC parallels between US or Israeli armies and greedy arrogant space hunters for alient planet’s resources (not oil but some precious mineral) portrayed in the movie! More than 50% of all Sci-fi stories have a similar plot – mindless exploitation of alien planets’resources by greedy corporations backed up by military, but so what?
    Here’s what director himself had to say about his actual creative ideas on the recent NPR interview: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123810319
    I am sorry – but labeling works of art, and good ones as “radical left” propaganda is no different that someone from that spectrum (which I have no respect for ) labeling your review of “Hurt Locker” as “radical right wing paranoya”. Please excuse my emotions – but I am really disappointed by this latest blog. I do hope that my comments get published: my principle is that even if I disagree with someone’s opinion – I’d die for his/her right to express it. The right should do same.

    Reply
  • TonyUSA 02/18/2010 at 19:29

    There isn’t much to watch if anything worth while that spews from Hollywood. Thanks for dismantling this celluloid IED. I will add saying teenage boys are attracted to violence is a stereotype. It’s a lust that is within us all though manifested to various degrees and in different forms.

    Reply
  • Jana Rene Funkhouser 02/18/2010 at 21:33

    Rarely will I make the effort to go to modern movies. As a child of the 50’s and a teenager of the 70’s, good movies which were encouraging and uplifting were still in vogue. Today, political correctness has taken hostage the majority of movie-makers and screen writers. What used to be heart-warming and patriotic is now heart-rending and without value. We have lost our way through the jungle of political correctness!

    Reply
  • Bryan Bentley 02/22/2010 at 0:45

    Ms. Glick as a word of advice you would be taken more seriously as a respectable commentator if you simply admitted you didn’t understand the movie, rather than instinctively attack it from a right-wing talking point. You sound like an angry liberal when you intentionally misrepresent a point creating a false straw man of a much more intellectual argument. I would ask please stick to foreign policy, you are clearly out of your element.

    Reply
  • Mark Wessels 02/28/2010 at 20:25

    “In truth, I don’t see many movies.”
    In that case how would you know a good one from a bad one?
    “Teenage boys love violence – the more gratuitous, the better. And The Hurt Locker has lots and lots of violence. In fact all it is is violence interrupted periodically by gratuitous, generic cute kid scenes.”
    Just how many male teenagers does one have to hang out with to make such a sweeping statement?
    How many U.S. and Coalition soldiers viewing this film would say “oh yes this of course is a post modern, context-free rendering of the war” “a picture perfect far left portrayal of war.” ? They would likely say this is not how it was for me or it was like that but a heck of a lot worse.
    “…And the war in Iraq is neither futile nor meaningless.”
    In Iraq you are right there is considerable meaning in the more than 100,000 lives now lost and counting but am I hearing you right that war in general can be a force for good that is just lost on some people most likely those who indulge radical left propaganda?

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  • MarcH 02/28/2010 at 23:06

    Rory wrote above, “there are probably many American servicemen who aren’t very deep”.
    Hey Rory, with how many US Army soliders have you ever had a conversation? Not many I’d bet. I assume you are an American so I reply to you that our soldiers ar “deep” enough to spill their blood to keep you safe at home and reading blogs.
    I would have liked to have seen Caroline respond to this, given her time with 3ID.

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  • Moshe 03/04/2010 at 6:38

    Re: Caroline’s comment about Avatar — yes, it’s anti-American, in the sense that it’s an allegory of the destruction of the native cultures of the Western Hemisphere by greedy European white settlers, except that in Avatar the natives won. But I don’t see it as anti-Israel at all. Cameron is Canadian, hence maybe he’s against the USA. But he also openly supported Israel against an attempted boycott.

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  • Maurice Guitard 03/05/2010 at 23:46

    Thanks for the post, your blog looks cool! I’ve fallen behind keeping up with the Oscar nominees this past few months but this really helped. So excited for Sunday!

    Reply
  • Mike Bird 03/08/2010 at 11:05

    I saw Avatar twice and enjoyed it thouroughly. It is not an anti-American film perce, but it is definately an anti-imperialism film. It is as much against how the white men of America forced the aborigionals off their land as it is about colonial England, Portugal and Spain, etc as they conquored other countries and brought slaves to work the ‘new world’. I haven’t seen Hurt Locker yet, but will do so soon. My youngest daughter who has a good head for films, says it is a good film, but not a great film. A film that does not deal with the issues that Avatar raises. From all of the discussion that has been raised about these two films, and the fact that Hurt Locker won the two biggest Oscars, the analyst in me says that it was pure politics and not art the stole the night.

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  • martin 03/08/2010 at 15:49

    “The Hurt Locker” is the worst movie that ever won an oscar. The story is poorly written. It does not build up to a final climax and the characters are un-interesting. The dialogue is mundane and instantly forgettable. The direction was pedestrian. I am absolutely appalled that this movie won the oscars it did. It will be even more laughable when the writer loses the upcoming lawsuit. I shudder to think what purile politics are behind this charade.

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  • Sam 03/12/2010 at 17:55

    The Hurt Locker, first off, is not a Hollywood movie. It’s an independent film.
    It’s also about three American soldiers—three particular American soldiers in an OED unit and the situation they find themselves in. It’s character based, on plot-based. We’re used to war movies as being action packed and explosive.
    There are very few explosions in this movie and again it’s not plot driven, so it seems that those who understand character driven stories don’t seem to get this movie.

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  • Anonymous 03/20/2010 at 22:48

    I can not help saying something about the movie after reading your review. As your review confirms my doubt about the quality of the movie Hurt Locker.
    I would say it is a disappointing and poorly made movie. First, I doubt maybe I missed something in the movie because of my limited language level(I am a Chinese from Beijing and I am learning English)and inadequate cultural background knowledge. I also find many of the scenes are inconsistent and I do not know why the director arranged these scenes, and also they are not logical.
    But it is widely acclaimed by the movie professionals and experts, I really doubt their taste and standard. It is also unfair for some really good movies which are not even nominated for Oscars, like Greatest Dad in the World. It is a brilliant movie, with a deep theme but also amusing.

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  • na 05/23/2010 at 23:10

    So bad it hurts is about right – what a piece of crap movie. I couldn’t sit through anymore of it… it really is painful. How this pathetic, plotless bag of crap won best picture I’ll never know. Perhaps there is a chance that pigs will fly and that there are unicorns on a yet to be discovered tropical island. To the director – find a day job… blockbuster is always hiring. To Mr. Cameron (James Cameron) – I feel for you not winning best picture and saw the look on your face when the award was announced for Bigelow – I almost puked too. Wow – what a piece of crap movie. And I haven’t even started on the policcal bullshit behind it. My gawd, what a piece of shit movie.

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  • na 05/23/2010 at 23:14

    to Sam – unfortunately when watching a movie where the character rather than the story (or lack of) takes precendence. There must be well formed characters. What the f*ck was that scene with him in the grocery store looking for cereal. It was obviously Bigelow’s vain attempt at showing the characters ill adjustment to civilian life. Unfortunately the stupid windbag director did little to develop this basis (or at large any of the characters.) This cereal scene was when I picked up the remote control – already tired of the melodramatic, plotless, poorly formed characters that have done little to entertain in over an hour. I change the channel after the absolutely pathetic pan shot when the ‘un’character James got off the plane after what we can guess was being deployed. I would rather shove dogshit in my bluray and watch. How this won best picture the world will always wonder – someone should slap Katherine Bigelow for making this piece of shit.

    Reply

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