A reader writes:
I have to take issue with Totten’s judgement on "Hurt Locker.” I was in Iraq in 2004, and the movie gets SO MUCH wrong. But most important, it gets things wrong that are timeless, like military culture. I just watched it, and the essential message is that of “Top Gun.” It’s that military and unite cohesion are boring, and the maverick lead character gets a great deal of praise for channeling his inner Sarah Palin. This, I think, is the main reason its getting slammed by a number of vets and journalists who were there. But the details also shred it:
For instance, this is supposed to be 2004. But the uniforms are the 2006 versions. US troops also don’t roll up their sleeves like their British counterparts. They use terms like “insurgents,” which wasn’t widely in use at that time. There’s a scene at a UN compound with a big car bomb. But the UN compound was destroyed in August 2003, and the UN pulled back to Amman after the bombing. They certainly weren’t in a big building with a big blue “UN” sign on the side. And don’t even get me started about the lead going AWOL and jogging back to Camp Victory in the dead of night. He’d have had to go through Amiriyah, the neighborhood, and he wouldn’t have made it out. (It was dominated by Baathists and Sunni insurgents at the time.) A bombing in the "Green Zone" seems to blend seamlessly with the city at large, as they don’t have to cross through any security to get into a inner-city Baghdad slum. (oh, yeah, they also split up so they can cover more ground; that would never ever happen.) So much for the blast walls ringing the area. Finally, this one three-man EOD team is cleaning up Baghdad all by itself. They often operate out of a single humvee and just kind of toodle around the city.
What is interesting is that Bigelow was also willing to explore that for some people, war can be fun a point made by the naïve, doomed doctor officer. It just seems like it started out as something interesting and then got Hollywood-ized. And then, she decides to say, “Oh, but it’s more complicated than that!” The problem is she waits until the last 5 minutes to reveal how complicated war can be for young, restless men. It’s like an O’Henry story stretched out to two hours and for me, as a journalist who spent three years there from the very early days with Back to Iraq and the TIME Magazine, it felt hollow and a bit offensive.
Is it the best feature film on Iraq? Well, it’s more like the least bad one.