Seriously, if you haven’t seen this movie, buy, borrow, or bootleg it by any means necessary. It’s one of the best-directed, best-acted, and best-scripted films I’ve ever seen, and I say that without a shred of exaggeration. If the Academy still thinks James Cameron has more talent than Locker director Kathryn Bigelow (his ex-wife), he’s probably paying them off.
But this isn’t just a review of the movie. Locker is one of those rare Iraq War films that can’t get panned for being Another Stupid Anti-War Movie. It effectively conveys the finer details of explosive ordinance disposal and the emotional side of combat with no needless preaching about the political reasons why Teh Warz is Evil OMG. (See also: Lions for Lambs, Stop-Loss, In the Valley of Elah, etc.)
To listen to Bill O’Reilly talk about movies like that, you’d think their core flaw is their left-wing position. That’s not quite accurate. Their flaw is that they take one unyielding political position, emote about it for one hour, and demonize the other position for the second hour. Right-wing movies, however few and far between, are capable of doing the exact same thing and failing miserably at turning it into a decent screenplay, not to mention improving it a little with direction that isn’t completely passive.
“But, Jess,” you ask, “don’t you strongly prefer it when people delve into the political side of things? Isn’t The Hurt Locker all imagery without making a point?” First of all, it did make a point: that not everyone who participates in combat reacts to it in the same way, which I would take as a very important message. It never got up on any high horse and said, “I am right, you are all wrong, and if you question me, I will ridicule you for all eternity.”
Second of all, I like it when people delve into the political side the way The West Wing did, by engaging the policy aspect of each episode’s issue. It may have subtly favoured Democrats, but it always treated Republicans with respect, except for the occasional caricatures. Doing this inspires serious debate with far less bias. Locker didn’t do this, but again, that’s because it’s not a political movie (how most so-called “war movies” of today would be better identified).
So, if all you’ve been doing with this column is skimming over it, only paying attention to the long words (you jackass), let me sum up by saying this: The Hurt Locker does for Iraq what Saving Private Ryan did for the invasion of Normandy.