The Hurt Locker

Modern warfare in the 21st century is captured brilliantly by director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal in an example of compulsory tension with The Hurt Locker. The Hurt Locker has been heralded as the “first great Iraqi war movie”, with its sheer intensity and lack of judgment on the morality of the war. This leaves the film free to focus on a single cog in an enormous military machine. It is the bleak and unadorned reality of the daily routine of an ordinary squad, a bomb disposal unit, caught in a horrific nightmare during 2004 in Baghdad.

Without gung-ho propaganda or anti-war rhetoric, The Hurt Locker provides a peephole into the art of 21st century warfare. The soldiers portrayed here are neither pawns acting on orders for the tortured, twisted evil of a conquering force nor are they puppets for the universal struggle for the good in mankind. Instead we see employees drudging through a bizarre chore, endlessly unending and staggeringly monotonous.

It is not the first film to immerse the audience in a grunts-eye view of war. However, it doesn’t pull at the heartstrings with symbolic missions, shattered innocence playing out between idealism and pragmatism of foreign policy or offer a blank canvas to project the insanity of the surroundings.

In The Hurt Locker, war is the daily reality and reflects the thoughts and state of the 21st century mindset. We have been taught to believe that war is hell and yet are unable to halt the processes that promote its perpetuity. Citizens of every country herald the majority of their soldiers of war as heroes, not because of intrepid exploits but because they survived the hellishness of conflict. There is no mention of integrated re-entry into society because it is as unimportant in the film as it is in the real-life policies and agendas of the warring nations.

Over and over the viewer sees the protagonist strap on his Kevlar suit, step into the kill zone and robotically defuse one bomb after another. Hamstrung with tension as he navigates the fine line between life and death, he also provide the face to the anonymous soldier who faces each day of drudgery picking through minefields set by faceless, elusive enemies who strike in unexpected ways. There is no capacity to judge war as wrong, no underlying presupposition of utopia at the conclusion of warfare, just the unrelenting drudgery of an everyday job.

The Hurt Locker is the epitome of warfare in the 21st century. Gone are the herald fields of battle with kings and conquerors meeting in a valley of clashing swords and whinnying horses while spectators line the hills above under banners of support. Today’s manner of warfare is anonymous with men and women of great character, or not, chugging through their daily chores as the military machine rolls on.


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