Friday, November 26, 2010

Hurt Locker (movie review)

Les pointed out, as we settled in for this war movie, in a snowy horse farm, that it was directed by a woman. That did seem relevant, as we entered the surreal world of occupied Iraq.

The guys are in pause mode when it comes to developing civilian life skills. They've forked off into a hellish world they do not question. The language games revolve around rank, giving and following orders, demonstrating competencies with one's equipment, one's tools.

When the protagonist, Sergeant First Class William James, tries to re-integrate into his civilian persona, he feels he has no skills. Chopping carrots and pushing a cart through the supermarket only add to his sense of alienation.

Feeling like a fish out of water, not especially respected or understood, only separates him from his art, his work, which is disarming bombs. He needs to go back to the theater, to where he understands his rank and role in a social network.

In not questioning this man-made reality, simply taking it as a given, the film duplicates the atmosphere of a computer game, such as Half Life. Concrete wastelands full of wind-blown trash, any of which might be explosive, turns this into a first person Quake or Doom.

The film alludes to this, by showing the hero playing such a game. The army recruits with such games as well. The implied message is that life imitates art, and the Middle East has become a stage for acting out teenage fantasies of destruction and death.

The message of the film is rather clear I thought: war is a drug, and may become highly addictive. Finding some place in the world to live out one's destiny as a soldier becomes an existential requirement. Survival of the persona trumps survival of the body. Better to die for one's art than for no reason at all.

One of our Wanderers has a son who did that job of bomb decommissioning. Takes courage, and lots of it. The guy is somewhere outside the theater of war these days, though is still working with explosives.

Les and I talked about whether the XY chromosome was buggy. In a world where war is unnecessary, does the "male species" lack relevance? Many seem to think so, and respond by making sure war remains necessary.

Hurt Locker would work well as a double feature with Jarhead, as both are overtly philosophical.