I wanted to make it clear that to veterans, The Hurt Locker is one of the worst movies about war ever made. It’s simply a really terrible film. If you combine the over the top spectacle of Inglourious Basterds, the rampant and unjustifiably cruel depiction of military veterans of Brothers, the complete lack of justifiable research into actual battlefield conditions of Inglorious Bastards, you have the Hurt Locker. This movie marvelled in one thing only – it was made to play on the emotions of moviegoers who want to feel like they cared about the military over the past 10 years, but never actually invested any time into understanding the conflicts in which they were involved, i.e. people who actually didn’t know or care anything about the veterans or what they are doing overseas during the years it mattered.
I mean, every movie gets some things wrong when converting from real life to the big screen. Inglorious Bastards didn’t even pretend it tried, though. The Hurt Locker, however, took great pains into bringing in quality researchers and advisors and then just said, “Screw it. We’re doing whatever we want, anyway.” and then telling the world that they did great research. Honestly, it was ludicrous that they marketed this as accurate on any level.
I just want to make one glaring point of contention I have with the movie. I was in a unit that had EOD teams both times I deployed to Iraq. I can tell you that each and every single time that an EOD team rolls out, they do so with a large team of security either in the form of military police or infantry. That means as many as four vehicles, loaded with troops, each and every time. That one fact, that single completely unavoidable reality, completely negates the entire movie. I mean watch the movie and ask yourself at any of the dozens of thrilling plot moments, “Hmm… I wonder how this would be different if there was fifteen people with guns, rocket launchers, and air strikes available?” Remember that scene where he just so happens to also be a sniper? Or the one where he and the other bomb techs just go retarded and start kicking in doors like they are infantry? You’ve got to be kidding me.
Quite frankly, someone wanted to tell a very particular story and when confronted with the facts that it wasn’t possible, they did it anyway and no one knew better to care. I still consider it a crime that so many people are so ill informed of the conflicts of the past decade and a half that they believe this movie depicts any semblance of reality for EOD teams in Iraq. Frankly, if you’ve already seen it, you can’t be helped. If you haven’t and care at all about the military and veterans, or even doing a good job telling an accurate depiction of events that were happening at the very same time the movie was made, never ever do.
I’m sure from a perspective of cinematography, it probably pushed the industry forward somehow, but as far as communicating one of the most important social issues of our time, not to mention an ongoing conflict at the time, it failed so miserably, it set veterans issues back ten years. I want people to look at it this way. We have seen LBGT rights and issues get a lot of press and people are now trying very hard to see things from their perspective. It’s not acceptable anymore to portray them as the wildly stereotypical flamboyant clowns circa the era of Robin William’s “The Bird Cage”. They’re people who deserve respect and to be portrayed in a realistic manner. However, the veteran population is allowed to be portrayed in any manner in which the world pleases to fulfil their narrative, from bloodthirsty murderers like (), psychologically scared societal dangers ( ), impossible killing machines ( ). Now, why is it that I brought in the LBGT stance into this? Because veterans outnumber the estimated homosexual population in the United States by at least 2:1. Why is it that one group is allowed to be so egregiously stereotyped when the others aren’t?
The Hurt Locker is everything wrong with how veterans are portrayed. It combines all of the negative biases people associate with veterans into one compact two hour blockbuster. They’re ruthless killers, they’re psychologically damaged, they’re unreliable, they’re dangerous to their team members, all they are good for is fighting. Given that we have not seen a military movie come out in the last ten years, that I am aware of, that features war veterans who aren’t any of these things, in fact, that may have benefited from their time in service, is it no surprise to people that they are having such a hard time integrating to the society that sent them to war in the first place?
Basically, the Hurt Locker is nothing more than war pornography. It makes people who want to see an action movie which portrays broken and desperate American soldiers suffering pointlessly not feel bad for enjoying it because the movie pretends to be bringing attention to these issues. Sadly, most of these issues are exaggerated to the point of ad absurdum because of movies like this, but that is the only context most Americans now have. The Hurt locker failed miserably in that they set out to make a modern war movie about real veterans issues, but not doing any quality research, not showing realistic veteran’s perspectives, not showing respect to real people at the time, and not communicating the real nature of a war that was currently still happening.
Jon Davis is a US Marine Corps veteran writer, focusing on the topics of US veterans and international defense. His work has been featured in Newsweek, Forbes, Gizmodo and elsewhere. He is also a writer of military science fiction with his first book, The Next War, due out early this year. You can follow Jon Davis via his personal blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts, and can support his writing via the web donation service, Patreon.