Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Hurt Locker (Bigelow)

Sadly, this is not a film about a moody high school football star and his tempestuous relationship with a metal compartment.

Honestly, what kind of a title is that? Not a very promising one, it seemed to me, but after several reviewers called the film "the first great movie about the Iraq War," I figured I might as well give it a shot. But what's the competition? Redacted? In The Valley Of Elah? Stop Loss? None of which are movies I have seen, of course, and in that regard I am not alone. Something about "Iraq War movie" just screams "yes" to certain Hollywood directors and "no" to me. My concern is: what is this movie going to tell me that I don't already know? Look: I didn't really think the Iraq War was a good idea. But nobody asked me what I thought, and I can't really do anything about it, so I really don't want to dwell on it in particular. It's not that I can't handle "difficult" material, or that I'd rather see G.I. Joe instead. I just don't think I'm going to get much out of it.

Here is what I will say about The Hurt Locker: it was very credible, realistic, and understated. I think the reason critics are calling it "the first great Iraq War movie" is because it is not preachy or heavy-handed. There is no obvious message. The main character, in fact, loves being in Iraq. So why have I completely forgotten about it until the composition of this review? I blame, once again, that shitty, "hand-held" cinematography. I don't like that look. It. Looks. Like. Crap. You can make a "realistic" movie that doesn't look like a low-budget documentary. I'm starting to think that the cinematography can make or break a movie for me. Are there any classic movies that are classic despite their sub-standard cinematography? I can't think of any.

Mostly The Hurt Locker made me realize how much I liked Sam Mendes' Jarhead. For some reason critics really ripped on Jarhead when it came out in 2005, but I thought it was hilarious and surreal and full of loads of off-handed insight into the American military mentality (even though it was actually about the first Persian Gulf War). Oh, and it also had great cinematography. The Hurt Locker mostly made me think, "OK, I'm glad there's not a draft and I don't have to do what this guy does." I figured that out in about five minutes, unfortunately.

Liberal guilt, I'm looking at you. Hopefully Kathryn Bigelow was not sitting around thinking, "I'm living a rich a comfortable life in California while other people are dodging suicide bombers in Baghdad. What can I do to make a difference?" That motivation does not a good movie make. I like movies that stem more from a filmmakers' own personal identification with their material. Not from, you know, their guilt.

Film critic rating: ***
Little Earl rating: *1/2


Herr Zrbo said...

I think I'm in the same boat as you LE, I just don't find Iraq War movies appealing. Maybe it's just too fresh, but I really have no desire to see any of these films (Jarhead, Stop Loss, etc.). I'm not sure there's been enough time to gather some hindsight, I mean, we're still there!

I had no idea from the title what this movie was about. I thought it was an American High School Football type film, guess I was wrong. Seems like they could have used a better title.

Little Earl said...

Didn't you read my post? I really liked Jarhead! And it's not about the current Iraq War (it's about the Persian Gulf War of 1991)! It contains plenty of hindsight! Please do not lump Jarhead in with those other films!

Thank you.

Herr Zrbo said...

Sorry, I tend to lump all these modern war films into the same lump, even if not Iraq related (like Black Hawk Down). I have no desire to see any of them. And what's the difference between the Persian Gulf war and the Iraq war anyways? Basically the same battle with 10 years between.

BTW - just saw Plan 9 from Outer Space last night, presented by Rifftrax (the guys who used to do Mystery Science Theater). Those guys didn't even need to riff on it, it was like shooting fish in a barrel, just hilariously awful.

ninquelote said...

I think I'm gonna have to disagree with you on this one LE. I enjoyed this film immensely. I don't usually like war movies myself because I find them kind of sappy and over dramatic, but I didn't really see this as a typical war movie. It was just some guys with a really difficult and dangerous job. I also found the particular job that James did kind of interesting. It was cool to see what kind of mindset you really need to do a job like that, what you can get use to in a position like that.

Really this could have taken place in any modern war, or even a movie that doesn't have anything to do with a particular war and is just some guys (or girls, don't want to be sexist you know) who defuse bombs for a living. (The movie Blown Away with Tommy Lee Jones comes to mind)