Critical Analysis – The hurt locker

            The film The Hurt Locker is an action packed movie depicting the lives and personalities of American soldiers in the recentwar on terror.  The movie, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, undoubtedly presents the film from the soldier’s perspective and does not shed much light on the combatants they are trying to stop. She also provides an interesting angle on individual personalities of soldiers, which clearly varies from person-to-person. The movie is representative of day-to-day life of many men and women fighting overseas.

            For example, Specialist Owen Eldridge is clearly a man out of his element and is a ball of nerves. He blames himself for his team leaders death when he did not shoot the man outside a butcher shop who, with the use of his cell phone, detonated a bomb the team is trying to defuse killing their team leader. Later, when visited by the shrink, the doctor wants to know what Eldridge is thinking about. Eldridge says, “you wanna know what I’m thinking about doc,” he grabs his gun and aims it at the wall. “Dead (he holds the gun), alive (he pulls the trigger), dead (he holds the gun), alive (he pulls the trigger).” Clearly blaming himself for his team leader and friends death. Throughout the film it becomes evident Eldridge does not want to be there. This situation is a reoccurring theme in the war. Men and women are killed and their fellow soldiers blame themselves. Shaken by the thought of dying, they become scared and afraid. It was a couple of scenes later when Eldridge is quoted telling his new team leader “bottom line is if you’re in Iraq, you’re dead…. If one of them comes up to the hum-v, were dead. If they even look at you funny, were dead.”

            Sgt  J.T. Sanborn, the second in command of the team provides an alternative perspective and representation of life at war. Sanborn worked seven year in intelligence before switching over to the Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) team. He can be classified as a professional. He sticks to protocols which ensures safety of the entire team. So, when newcomer Staff Sgt William James makes his debut, immediately they get off on the wrong foot. William James, the main character and also the wild card on the team can be best described as fearless.

            The opposite of Eldridge; James does not fear losing his life. In the very first scene James appears in, he rips down the board covering the window. When Sanborn advises him the board was there to protect him from martyrs, he says, “the boards not gonna stop a martyr from coming through the roof now is it.” James realizes at any second of any day his life could be taken from him. He disarms bombs the same way. For example, the first time James works with Sanborn and Eldridge, he suits up instead of sending the robot to examine the bomb so he can get a first-hand look. On his walk towards the bomb, James lacks communication with Sanborn and throws a smoke grenade. When Sanborn wants to know what he is doing he says “creating a diversion.” Right off the bat the viewer gets the sense James is reckless and going to get the rest of the team killed.

            As I said before, Kathryn Bigelow’s told a story purely from the American soldiers perspective. One theme I noticed throughout the film was the soldiers were framed as confident, thorough, and organized. There were procedures and protocols for everything. For example, the boards on the windows, protocol for clearing a scene, the detonating of explosives in remote areas. It appears American soldiers believe in preservation of life. The soldiers including Sanborn are advised to follow orders or you and your men will die. Although this may seem extreme, it is paramount soldiers follow orders or it is likely death may come of them. An interesting personality trait in regards to James is that he does not follow orders; he ignores most protocols and procedures. He and his team struggle to find a balance because of his lack of disciple. However, James subscribes to the realist thought. Even if he follows every order, every procedure and protocol, it is likely his probability of death is still the same, if not higher. For example, a car bomb outside a building is filled with explosives. He recognizes he will not be able to moves as quickly with his suit on and so he takes it off. He assumes the risk of the bomb detonating ultimately killing him. However, he recognizes the bomb will inevitably killing him regardless of whether or not he wears the suit. So, he simply took it off. Now, he is more agile and has the ability to defuse faster. This act, reckless and dumb, may have saved the lives of him, his team, and civilians living nearby.

            Another instance at the beginning of the film where the Americans may seem confident and controlling is when the hum-v is traveling through the city and is slowed by a car in the road. The gunner throws a bottle of water at their car to signal them to move over. Visibly the men in the car seem upset and ultimately proceed out of their way.

Although Kathryn Bigelow doesn’t spend much time focusing on the combatants, she does however frame them in a visible way. In the movie, the soldiers assume assuming everyone is a potential suspect. It is evident the enemy is indistinguishable from the civilians, making fighting the war near impossible. The perspective of everyone being a potential suspect is a reality. As I mentioned before, the man dressed casually at the butcher shop was the detonator. In the scene where James through the smoke bomb to cause a diversion, the detonator was a man dressed in street clothes. No uniform, no sign, no way to identify who the perpetrators are. This realty I think is framed really well in this film offering a perspective which leaves the viewer (myself) with a lasting taste.

            One big aspect of this film which I found to be extremely interesting was the absence of the word “terrorist.” Not one time do the soldiers reference terrorism or call their combatants terrorists. The soldiers in the film use words like “martyr’s, attackers or suicide bomber” when referencing situations. I believe the movie tries to demonstrate that many of the soldiers have come to terms with their actions, they are at war, not with terror, but with an enemy. So the actions of the enemy can be interpreted as acts of war and not acts of terror. The combatants have taken plays from our own playbook and made it their own: use guerrilla warfare.

            Overall, the film The Hurt Locker was interesting and realistic tale. Kathryn Bigelow  tried to present the personality traits of three different men in combat: a scared man, a conscious man, and a fearless man. Kathryn Bigelow framed the American “soldier” confident and apt. However, other times, she tried to depict the men for just what they were, men.