The Hurt Locker (2009) – Shadows of Profundity

Kathryn Bigelow’s ex-husband James Cameron stated, when asked for a comment about her new film, that “I think that this could be the Platoon for the Iraq War”.  While I do not necessarily agree with the comparison for reasons that will become apparent, I do think that it is an interesting one to draw.  Underlying Cameron’s comment is the fact that Hurt Locker is one of only a few films about the Iraq War that attempt to look past the politics in order to focus upon the psychology of the individuals actually doing the fighting.  This change of emphasis is harder to achieve than you might expect as film-makers are understandably reluctant to give the full Colonel Kurtz treatment to the people fighting a war that is still on-going.  Indeed, Paul Haggis’ In the Valley of Elah (2007) skirted around the issue of war’s dehumanising effect by showing the impact of the war not upon the individuals doing the fighting but rather upon their families.  Similarly, David Simon’s TV adaptation of Evan Wright’s Generation Kill (2004) lacked bite by virtue of an unfortunate tendency to portray its soldiers as quirky but ultimately heroic individuals trapped in unpleasant situations by self-serving bosses and a corrupt system.  Bigelow’s Hurt Locker does undeniably adopt a more direct approach to the psychology of war, it is just a pity that what intellectual content there is in the film is starved of oxygen by the elaborate set-pieces that form the bulk of the film’s running time.

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