Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Empty Locker

The Hurt Locker has no plot. The characters are so flat as to be almost stereotypical. What it is is a series of action set pieces, nicely done, but nothing more. The story could have taken place anytime in the past 60 years where American imperialism have made a mess of things. It almost goes out of its way to avoid making any reference to the Iraqi war at large, there's no attempt to criticize or justify it. War is simply this vague concept, a setting in which to showcase the hero's bravado. As the titles at the beginning of the film suggests, war is like a drug, as if it's just an individual affliction.

If the film carries any ideology, perhaps it lies only in the celebration of this quintessentially American trope: the lone hero, the rogue individualist who triumphs because he's willing to break rules. But at what price? The nighttime scene towards the end of the film strikes me as particularly ludicrous. The hero arrives at a place where a suicide bomb has hit. He has a flash of inspiration. Perhaps it wasn't a suicide bomber, and the assailants are waiting in the periphery for a chance to blow up the rescue crew. He therefore decides to go into the dark recess of the city to look for the bad guys. But if there were bad guys waiting out in the dark, wouldn't he be walking into their ambush?

Yet aside from some weak protest from his soldiers in arms, nobody tries to stop his stupidity. It's as if the filmmaker (and Americans in general) want to believe that this war could be won by bravado alone, that if all soldiers were so brave and heroic, Iraqis would simply fall down on their knees in admiration. This lack of insight is the most troubling aspect about this film. Nobody wonders why the Iraqis hate their supposed liberators so much that they are willing to blow themselves up if it means they can take down a few Americans with them. Nobody questions what they're doing in Iraq in the first place. At one point in the film, in a particularly heartfelt and soul searching moment, the black guy makes a comment about risking their lives everyday. I wanted to scream, "This is the best you can come up with, you dumb fuck. After a year in Iraq in the bomb squad you just realized life is like rolling dice?"

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