Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is a tense drama set in present day Iraq and involving a squad of bomb disposal experts of the US military. I will try to leave out any details that will take away from the viewing experience. Suffice it to say you will be saying ‘oh fuck’ a lot.

I like the use of the handheld camera to capture the frenetic nature of life in a deadly war zone. Everyone and everything seem to be charged with electricity. Anyone around the soldiers is a potential enemy. They are always a second away from the situation going wrong. The film is very effective at putting the audience right in the middle of the action. Since the actors are not well known you have a feeling that any one of them can be the next to die. You actually think you are helping the soldiers succeed in their mission by holding your breath in the most tense situations lest you set off the bomb from your seat with your breathing. That is good filmmaking.

“They (tanks) don’t do anything…any one comes along side the Humvee and we’re dead. Anyone even looks at you funny we’re dead. Basically the bottom line is if you are in Iraq you are dead. How is a fuckin tank suppose to stop that?”

The men all seem to have a perfect understanding of the danger they are in all the time. They can’t help but develop a fatalistic attitude but at the same time they are almost addicted to the stress and danger. They take crazy risks and make what seem to be deadly decisions but it is also the ONLY way they can function at all. Some deal by quietly doing the job. Some by making jokes. Others deal by verbally venting their frustrations at the lunacy that their world has become - something that frustrates other members of the team since they can do nothing to change the circumstances they find themselves in. They would rather not be reminded of that fact especially when they seem to be working with a man who has a death wish. A man who sees each IED as a puzzle to be solved. - no protocols will stop him from being a maverick. After being told he can go and leave the bomb he still needs to see the job through to the end. Others may call him a ‘wild man’ or ‘gansta’ but he knows he is neither of those things. Guess that happens to you after you have disarmed 873 bombs. (!?). You would know you are pushing your luck and that the odds certainly are not in your favour.

The technique of showing the bombs detonating in ultra slow motion shows how time seems to freeze in the long instant it takes for someone to die. Despite all the best efforts of the soldiers people WILL die.

Each IED (Improvised Explosive Device) is different and require a different solution to disarm them and the film achieves much of its tension from those scenes.

There is very little ‘off mission’ moments so you get to experience the danger the soldiers are in day after day after day. It seems unrelenting. I can see why anyone in those circumstances would become crazy reckless or just plain crazy. No wonder PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is so common in soldiers coming back from Iraq or any war zone for that matter.

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