Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 11, 2009

In the Loop; Hurt Locker

Filed under: Film,Iraq — louisproyect @ 6:54 pm

Despite what you might have read in the over-hyped reviews for “In the Loop”, this is not a satire on the build-up to any war in the Middle East, including the one that began in 2003. It is instead a commentary on the back-stabbing behavior of high-powered governmental functionaries in the U.S. and Great Britain that throughout its 106 minutes contains not a single political conversation.

We are led to believe that Pentagon generals, British foreign office functionaries, and inside-the-beltway policy wonks could be capable of not mentioning a single word about the ostensible enemy despite the reality of White House obsession with Saddam Hussein in 2003. Instead, the power-brokers, both men and women, spend all their time cursing each other out with particular emphasis on the size of the men’s penises. One supposes that A.O. Scott, the N.Y. Times movie reviewer, flipped out over this sorry movie (“The audience…is likely to die laughing”) because it reminds him of what goes on at his job.

Some reviewers compare “In the Loop” to “Dr. Strangelove”. For this comparison to work, you have to imagine a “Dr. Strangelove” without any reference to a looming nuclear war with Russia. Instead we would be treated to George C. Scott’s colorful portrayal as General ‘Buck’ Turgidson but captured entirely in the bedroom rather than the “war room”. Who would want to be inconvenienced with boring discussions about the impact of a thermonuclear device on New York City or Moscow when you can get laughs watching Turgidson prancing about in his underwear?

“In the Loop” reminded me of last year’s “Nothing but the Truth”, a movie inspired by the Judith Miller/Valerie Plame contretemps but utterly devoid of politics. The movie begins with some vague reference to CIA military intervention in Venezuela in order to get the plot moving, but switches gears to become a sterile melodrama about professional ethics and the ambitions of strong-willed women. A big yawn in other words.

The movie begins with a low-level British foreign affairs minister being interviewed about sexually transmitted diseases, his specialty. When asked whether he thought that a war would be fought in the Middle East, he replies that such an event is “unforeseeable”. The doves interpret this as opposition to war, while the hawks spin it in the other direction. The foreign minister is a character similar to Zelig or Peter Sellers in “Being There”. Meanwhile, James Gandolfini of “Sopranos” fame plays a Pentagon general who also likes to be seen as dovish or hawkish to fit the occasion, a supposed reference to General Colin Powell. The only problem with this, of course, was Powell’s full-throated warmongering in 2003. He only became ambivalent about the war after it became costly, just as was the case with most politicians including Barack Obama.

The movie was directed by Armando Iannucci, a Scotsman of Italian descent who also directed “The Thick of It”, a BBC comedy with the same narrow focus as “In the Loop”—nothing so boring as politics ever makes its presence in this television show apparently. It instead prefers to reveal what miscreants run the British government, as if we needed to watch television to learn that. Iannucci’s inspiration was “Yes, Minister”, another comedy of bad manners that used to air on PBS. I once watched 10 minutes of it before switching the dial out of fear of being turned into a pillar of stone.

I doubt that I could improve on the proper trashing of “Hurt Locker” by Jay Rothermel that appeared today on Marxmail. It includes the following observations that I could not agree more strongly with:

The Hollywood combat movie is a genre notorious for hoary clichés. We all know them: at least one solider is on the verge of going home. Another loves war a little too much. A third, from the rear echelon, wants to see some real action. Around camp a G.I. might befriend a local boy, a Samuel Fuller war orphan with a name like Short Round. If Fuller or Robert Aldrich made the movie, most of the officers would be useless tyros or dangerous martinets. The Black soldier would come off hard-as-nails, but reveal himself late in the movie as the heart of the unit. The youngest baby-faced grunt would have a meltdown. There would be some lighter escapades, too, to break-up the bigger combat scenes: men carousing and “getting down” to the soundtrack’s rock and roll music.

“The Hurt Locker” is sold as a vigorously up-to-date hand-held no-stars kitchen-sink realist combat movie with none of these trite and ancient plot points. On this the TV commercials, stellar reviews, and print ads all agree. But the movie has them. Indeed, it seems like an encyclopedia of such clichés. So many are used that the viewer starts to feel like the victim of a practical joke, lured to the theater with the old bait-and-switch.

I would only add a couple of my own complaints. In one scene the American bomb defusing expert, one Sergeant James, scours an abandoned bomb factory, where he discovers a dead Iraqi boy who has been booby-trapped. In keeping with the sensationalist approach of director Kathryn Bigelow, James uses his knife to surgically remove the bomb. To add to the melodrama, the boy is assumed to be a street kid that Sergeant James has befriended, a DVD peddler who calls himself Beckham after the soccer superstar.

Now there have been few reports of booby-trapped corpses in Iraq, but those have exclusively involved occupation forces, either military or civilian like truck drivers. The idea that Sunni insurgents would defile the corpse of a Muslim, even if it belonged to a Shi’ite is unbelievable. As deeply religious rebels, they were and are obviously constrained by their beliefs. The Muslim religion dictates a rapid burial and not the use of a dead believer’s body for a weapon. Suicide bombing, of course, is an entirely different matter that while not exactly sanctioned by the religion is not in open defiance of its strictures, at least as interpreted by its Imams, which is all that matters in the final analysis.

In some ways, this lack of verisimilitude reminded me of “The Deer Hunter”, another war movie that also aspired to transcend the genre’s conventions. In one of the most heralded scenes in the movie, the Vietnamese force an American captive to play Russian roulette. As it turns out, the only record of such a gruesome form of mental and physical torture taking place during the war was imposed by Americans on their Vietnamese captives. That’s par for the course in Hollywood, where demonization of the Empire’s enemies is a requirement for career advancement.

In another scene that is directly related to the scene described above, Sergeant James forces another Arab DVD peddler to drive him to the house where Beckham was booby-trapped, or where he lived. Like much of this movie, it is rather murky what his goal is. When he gets there, pistol in hand, he discovers that it is a middle-class home with an older man preparing dinner in the kitchen. The man, a college professor who speaks English, is not intimidated by the gun and invites him to share tea with him. We are finally on the verge, it would appear, of having some serious dramatic interaction and revelations about how the Arab perceives the occupying powers. But just as soon as the professor makes his invitation, his wife bursts into the kitchen and beats Sergeant James over the head with a metal pot. Our intrepid GI, unafraid of the deadliest bombs, goes running off into the night and no further words are exchanged with the Iraqi man and woman. I imagine that the screenwriter was incapable of writing dialog appropriate to the scene. He was much better suited obviously for having his principals say things like “Haji at 2:00”.

83 Comments »

  1. Do you like any comedy besides Dr. Strangelove?

    Comment by Jenny — August 11, 2009 @ 11:10 pm

  2. Jenny, my 10 favorite comedies:

    1. Charlie Chaplin: Modern Times
    2. WC Fields: Bank Dick
    3. Laurel and Hardy: Way out West
    4. Buster Keaton: Seven Chances
    5. Marx Brothers: At the opera
    6. Peter Sellers: Return of the Pink Panther
    7. Marlin Brando/David Niven: Bedtime Story
    8. Preston Sturges: Sullivan’s Travels
    9. Woody Allen: Sleeper
    10. Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin: All of Me

    Comment by louisproyect — August 12, 2009 @ 12:14 am

  3. If anyone else has seen the Hurt Locker, why was the Iraqi professor happy to see Will James while he thought that Will was a CIA agent? I didn’t understand the significance of that interaction. Did it imply some relationship between the professor, the DVD salesman and the CIA?

    Comment by Mark — August 12, 2009 @ 12:28 am

  4. Mark, thanks for reminding me about that scene. I am going to update my review with my thoughts about it, something I had originally planned to write about.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 12, 2009 @ 12:38 am

  5. Why return of the pink panther and not A shot in the dark?

    Comment by Jenny — August 12, 2009 @ 1:45 am

  6. I’m glad I didn’t see “In The Loop” – and none of the reviewers here in New York even bothered to mention the film’s utter lack of politics.

    There was another distortion in “The Hurt Locker” – in the real life US Army, unexploded ordinance technician is considered a Non Combat Military Occupational Specialty – that is, it is a job that is open to women (unlike the Combat MOS’s which are all male).

    Consequently, in the real life army, there are lots of women unexploded ordinance technicians – in fact, the first woman from New York City to die in the war was an unexploded ordinance technician from Jackson Heights, Queens who died dismantling an IED in Baghdad almost 7 years ago.

    I wonder why Bigelow made these co-ed bomb disposal units all male in her film?

    Perhaps showing women in combat would defy some of her views on men and violence – so instead of adjusting her views to reality, she twisted reality to fit her views, and made these units all male.

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 12, 2009 @ 2:45 am

  7. If politics can be simply defined as “who gets what” then there was at least some “revelations about how the Arab perceives the occupying powers” because “as soon as the professor makes his invitation, his wife bursts into the kitchen and beats Sergeant James over the head with a metal pot.”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 12, 2009 @ 5:16 am

  8. The number of films not worth watching seems truly endless. I still think it’s a public service to provide reasons why one shouldn’t watch a particular film. It saves others the distress of suffering through, etc..

    A friend paid for my ticket to see “Ironman” some time ago. So I went. It was like some gigantic product placement for a greasy, fatty, sugary cheeseburger. In fact, at one point the main character sat down in front of a podium and, in place of some public remarks, munched down on his favorite burger. Burp. I thought the filmmakers were taunting McD****** Corporation, or one of its rivals, with a spot in the film where they, too, could have had (but didn’t!) a key product placement.

    Pardon me while I wipe the grease off my chin. Was it the overpriced popcorn or the film itself? Who knows?

    Comment by Johnny Canuck — August 12, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

  9. Hi Louis, the point of “In the Loop” and “The Thick of It” is that British politicians have abandoned politics except as a game to see who can stay in office. There are no ideological differences between the major parties in the UK and they both were in favour of the invasion of Iraq.

    “Yes Minister” is another case entirely, as it was pure right-wing propaganda pushing Public Choice Theory – and thus loved by Margaret Thatcher.

    See

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes_Minister

    Adam Curtis, in his three-part TV documentary The Trap, criticised the series as “ideological propaganda for a political movement”,[7] and claimed that Yes Minister is indicative of a larger movement of criticism of government and bureaucracy, centred upon public choice economics. This view has been supported by Jay himself:

    The fallacy that public choice economics took on was the fallacy that government is working entirely for the benefit of the citizen; and this was reflected by showing that in any [episode] in the programme, in Yes Minister, we showed that almost everything that the government has to decide is a conflict between two lots of private interest – that of the politicians and that of the civil servants trying to advance their own careers and improve their own lives. And that’s why public choice economics, which explains why all this was going on, was at the root of almost every episode of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.[8]

    #8 ^ Adam Curtis. The Trap: What Happened To Our Dreams of Freedom, Part 1 – “F&#k You Buddy” [Television Production]. BBC. Quoted text at 0:36:07

    Comment by coventrian — August 12, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

  10. I think you missed a lot of the points. Sgt. James’ misguided and ultimately futile “mission” to what he is told is the home of Beckham is a great allegory for the US Empire’s entire boondoggle in Iraq. James has some legitimate motivation, seeing a dead child, thinking (it turns out quite erroneously) that it is the child from the base, jumping to massive self-serving conclusions, violently threatening his suspect, barreling forward to and then into the house, only to be confronted by someone who says he is a professor whose reactions are not what he expected and beyond his limited comprehension, and then reacted to with hostility and apparent outrage by the professor’s wife, and forced to scamble out, his lack of an “exit strategy” on full display.

    The movie uses lots of interactions and vignettes that allude to or outright borrow from war movie cliches. But like other movies that look like genre films but which actually show the hollow fallacy of their cliches (I am thinking of Unforgiven, The Pledge, The Limey, The Crossing Guard), Hurt Locker does not count down the unit’s days in Iraq so that we can see James go home, in its final scene it reveals that the mindless cycle just resets and starts anew. Just like Guy Pearce’s character before him, James walks toward the bomb and we know it’s a only a matter of time until he dies and another soldier takes his place.

    Comment by mijo — August 13, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

  11. Sgt. James’ misguided and ultimately futile “mission”

    Interesting point. But Sergeant James operates on such a visceral level that it is hard for me to see him as a symbol of warped American imperial do-goodism. Now there was a character who might have fit into that category, namely the Yale graduate who was James’s captain and who was blown up by an IED after telling a group of Iraqis to “shoo”. I think that the screenwriter is a pretty bright guy, based on his work in “Valley of Elah”–a movie I thought was among the best in this genre–but flopped this go-round.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 13, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

  12. I far as understand from the reviews The Hurt Locker is a movie about a father who is redeemed from the guilt of neglected paternal responsibilities through the mediation of a an Iraqi boy and eventually realizes his true responsibilities as a soldier. That’s all.

    Comment by Mehmet Çagatay — August 13, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

  13. Mijo, and Mehmet,

    Perhaps to the film studies majors out there, there is all that metaphor and meaning in the film.

    But out in the multiplexes – where the money is made – this is a typical war film…. heroic men fighting for their buddies and their country, with the usual cliches, that are neatly outlined in the review.

    There’s a whole genre of “realistic” cop shows (“Law and Order”, “Law and Order: Criminal Intent”, “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”, “The Shield” ect) that have a similar “warts and all” way of justifying, promoting and propagandizing for the American repressive apparatus – “The Hurt Locker” does for the US Army what “Law and Order” does for the NYPD!

    And if this film is so oppositional to the war machine (Mijo’s version) or such a non political analysis of the family dynamics of one man (Mehmet’s version) why did the US DoD authorize the use of military equipment and personnel for this movie?

    AS A RULE the DoD does NOT cooperate with any movies or TV shows that aren’t unambiguously pro war and pro US military – PERIOD!

    Obviously, the folks in US DoD Pubic Affairs understand this movie a little bit better than Mijo and Mehmet – and, more importantly, they understand how multiplex audiences will see this movie – as pro war pro US Army propaganda, all the more effective because it’s supposedly “apolitical”!

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 13, 2009 @ 11:05 pm

  14. Greg, I have a feeling that Mehmet was being ironic but sometimes it is hard to tell with him.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 13, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

  15. Louis,

    He might very well have been – but irony doesn’t translate very well on the internet – because it’s just words on a screen, with no facial expression or tone of voice cues to show the person was being ironic.

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 13, 2009 @ 11:34 pm

  16. Sgt. James seemed to have a very strong, unspoken, sense of ethics. Innocent people deserved to be protected (like the hapless taxi driver, Beckham, the hapless suicide bomber and civilian bomb targets) while bad people deserved to be punished (e.g., Beckham’s killers, bomb masterminds). Perhaps he was confused when the Iraqi professor was instantly friendly to him and he couldn’t identify the bad guy?

    When James returned for another tour of duty, I thought that he either needed to feed his war addiction or continue his god-like job of protecting the innocent and punishing the evil. He told his son that only one thing was important to him. What was that?

    Comment by Mark — August 14, 2009 @ 12:13 am

  17. Hi, Gregory.

    Perhaps you misunderstood my assessment. After reading Louis’ review and the one appeared on Marxmail, with the addition of an unerring investigation on Wikipedia, I’ve come to the conclusion that movie is ultimately ideological insofar as it properly reconciles a troubled self-destructive soldier and his “true” duty towards the Army. This is where the idea is made.

    Comment by Mehmet Çagatay — August 14, 2009 @ 12:14 am

  18. Sorry, I just read my first comment and Gregory might be right to think that I regard the movie as apolitical. It was my fault for being unable to express my thought clearly whether it is ironic or not.

    Comment by Mehmet Çagatay — August 14, 2009 @ 12:31 am

  19. Mark,

    The only problem with the whole “War Addiction” concept is that wars are not started based on the whims or psychological quirks of E-5’s (or of O-9’s, for that matter).

    And even the rulers who make those calls don’t launch something as serious as a war based on some individual mental pathology – America didn’t invade Iraq because George Bush or the CEO of ExxonMobil had some kind of psychiatric issue, they invaded Iraq because it was in US imperalism’s interest to keep Iraq from selling it’s oil in Euros instead of dollars, and selling it to firms from France, India and China rather than to the “Seven Sisters” international oil companies based in the US, England and Holland (ExxonMobil, Chevron Texaco, Royal Dutch Shell, BP ect).

    That is the fundamental flaw in the liberal analysis of what causes war – and that is a fundamental flaw with “The Hurt Locker”.

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 14, 2009 @ 2:19 am

  20. I have to strongly disagree with this review. I have had friends and relatives who have served in Iraq (some of which are still there), and never have I understood how someone (from any war) could just… “belong” there.

    I don’t think this movie was quite as concerned about making it 100% accurate as it was showing what its actually like to be there. It doesn’t glorify the war and it doesn’t portray the idea that Iraqi = terrorist (ie. “Traitor”). One thing is does portray is how difficult it is for the soldiers to identify the people who are trying to harm them or not.

    Yes, it may have some cliches with the different characters, and it may have been a bit ambitious to try to tackle so many different types of people, but I think something like this is extremely necessary. Because there IS the young soldier who has a breakdown, and there IS the man who just doesn’t belong anywhere but in combat.

    I believe that many Americans don’t want to know what daily life is like for soldiers in Iraq. Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and this movie completely shatters that. I’ve heard from one friend who is back from Iraq that this is the most accurate movie about our current conflict that has ever been made.

    I strongly encourage that any readers of this review see the movie for themselves before passing judgment, but because I think this reviewer completely missed the entire point of the film.

    Comment by Mike Sutton — August 14, 2009 @ 3:37 pm

  21. Mike,

    I actually saw the movie when it first came out a couple of weeks ago – I make it a point of NEVER reviewing a movie which I have not seen.

    I don’t have first hand knowledge of what it’s like to be in combat so I won’t comment on the claim that this movie shows the battle experience accurately.

    But, as a journalist, I do keep track of military deployment policies – so I know that, from the invasion in April 2003 to the present, the US Army’s bomb disposal units have been co-ed – with male and female technicians serving (and, in some cases, dying) side by side dismantling IED’s.

    The first woman soldier from New York City to die in the war was killed while dismantling an IED – she was a Sergeant in the US Army

    Here’s a link to an article about the real life unit that “The Hurt Locker” was based on – the 717th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, based at Camp Victory, which is located in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces in Baghdad.

    As you will note, the real life unit is composed of 20 men and 1 woman.

    I know that this movie, for some reason, rewrote that fact so they had all male units carrying out that task.

    As a rule, if a source gets one fact wrong, it quite possibly got a lot of facts wrong – ESPECIALLY if they deliberately made an untrue statement.

    So if they defeminized a gender integrated unit, what else did they lie about?

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 14, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  22. Oh, here’s the link to that Wired article about the 717th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company at Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq:

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.11/bomb.html

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 14, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

  23. C’mon Louis. A partial value of criticism consists in the revelation that the system reproduces itself by encouraging pointless self-promotion or cynical resignation. At the very least, In the Loop does the former, Hurt Locker accomplishes the latter.

    I understand the themes of these kinds of films as articulations of the “structure of feeling,” not as “ruthless critiques” of the specific organization of society. But, I’d agree that anglophone films do a shitty job in general when it comes to ruthless critique.

    Comment by slothrop — August 14, 2009 @ 5:25 pm

  24. Gregory,

    Thanks for that link, however, calling what you’re doing “nitpicking” would be pretty steep. The original unit is composed of 21 people, one of which is a woman. This film focused on only THREE people. On top of that, never was I under the assumption that those three were a representation of 18 more soldiers. I could definitely see your point had it focused on 20 men, leaving the woman cut out, but as it only focused on 3 men out of that whole unit, I wouldn’t consider that “rewriting fact”.

    That could be a perception type thing, however. To me, things were brought down to a smaller scale to heighten the ability to connect with the soldiers and to raise the tension and the suspense. You have to remember, at the end of the day, that this is an action/drama film, not a documentary.

    Comment by Mike Sutton — August 14, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

  25. Mike,

    It’s not “nitpicking” if they don’t even have any women EXTRAS – all of the American soldiers in the background of the scenes were male although the real US Army has women ordnance technicians, MP’s, Arabic linguists, intelligence officers ect on checkpoints and on patrol.

    It seems like the director didn’t want to include that MAJOR change in the order of battle of the US Army in her movie!

    For a comparison, just watch NCIS, a popular military oriented TV show on CBS and the USA Network – and look at how they show a more accurate portrayal of the gender balance in the modern military (the US Navy and US Marine Corps, in that show’s case)

    “Saving Private Ryan” had the same problem with race!

    They didn’t have a single Black solder – even as an extra – even though the real life US Army at Normandy had an all African American unit loading and driving all the supply trucks.

    Maybe that’s not important to you – maybe you’re comfortable with cinema that shows an all Male and mostly White world – but a lot of people want to see at least SOME similarity between the movies and the real world.

    So, no it’s NOT “nitpicking” – it’s a little thing called Social Justice – ever heard of it?

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 15, 2009 @ 4:21 am

  26. Another example of that is in Oliver Stone’s film “World Trade Center”

    In the movie, an all White team of cops – aided by a Marine – rescues two White male Port Authority police officers from a WTC elevator.

    In real life, the Marine who helped rescue those two cops was an African American man – Stone whitewashed his character and cast a White man to play him (probably because having a Black man on the scene during his White male American bonding moment would spoil the nationalist mood Stone was setting)

    Also, in real life, those two cops were NOT the last live people rescued from the WTC – a pregnant African American woman secretary – who was rescued two days after the two White male cops were – was the last person rescued….and she was rescued by a racially integrated team of firefighters and construction workers.

    Having a pregnant Black woman being rescued by a mixed White, Black and Latino team of workers TOTALLY would NOT fit into Stone’s White American male nationalist storyline, nor would he get to glorify the armed repressive agents of the capitalist state (the cops) – so she (and her saviors) got edited out of the story.

    Again, I expect Social Justice in my movies – and an image of an integrated world that matches the real life integrated world we live in.

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 15, 2009 @ 4:29 am

  27. There is no pleasing people in terms of “societal balance”. If the Hurt locker included a woman in its main cast to replace either Eldridge or Sanborn, then the criticism would be how it portrays women as weak and unable to handle the stress of combat and how this entire movie focuses on the denigration of feminine power. If a woman took the role of Sgt James, then there would be criticism of a woman who is attempting to behave like a man and abandoning those that she professes to love so she can go play the hero in sheer minded bravado. The scene with the body bomb would also be criticized had a woman played Sgt. James with critics saying that it only steroetypes on women’s caring attitude and perceived weak pysche that causes a breakdown when seeing the corpse of a child.

    And if the woman had took the role of the original EOD sergeant, then you can imagine the uproar when everybody starts yelling sexism as the woman got killed in the initial seconds.

    This isn’t a matter of social justice, it’s your own attempt at trying to save face when proven wrong by others.

    As for the body bomb kid, Muslims aren’t the only people who live in Iraq. Christians, atheists, other indigenous faiths are also prevalent. I guess your blind belief in a stereotypical view just shot your theory of social justice right out of the water.

    Comment by dingo — August 15, 2009 @ 11:08 pm

  28. Dingo,

    I see you like to use straw man arguments to defend your opposition to social justice and non racist and non sexist culture.

    If they had shown that military unit ACCURATELY I would have had no problem with them having a woman Sergeant who – like all human beings, male or female, had the same mix of strengths and weaknesses, heroism and fears, folly and wisdom that every person has.

    So I wouldn’t have a problem with a woman ordnance tech being shown getting killed in a movie – cause it happens in real life in Iraq – nor would I have a problem with a woman ordnance tech breaking down when she sees a child’s dead body because lots of soldiers – male and female – react that way to dead kids on a battlefield!

    I suspect your REAL problem here is your Caucasio-phallocratic orientation and your desire to only see White men like yourself reflected in culture, because only White men have anything important to say.

    As for the religious composition of Iraq, the country is overwhelmingly Islamic and, over the last 30 years, the country has become much more religious.

    Iraq used to be a lot more cosmopolitan – but the country’s once huge Jewish community were expelled en masse in 1958 and many of the Christians fled after the US invasion and the rise of the Islamic insurgency.

    I’m sure there are atheists in Iraq, but, these days, I would imagine that’s something that folks keep to themselves, cause saying you don’t believe in God is a really good way to get shot by the religious militias – both the insurgent militias and the ones that are funded by the US DoD.

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 15, 2009 @ 11:24 pm

  29. Putting aside the argument there’s an “economic draft” as depicted in the film “Farenheit 911” — where recruiters targeted kids of the working poor and oppressed communities, these volunteer soldiers are the social equivalent of cops. Pigs as some still call them. But worse than pigs because they’re basically lawless mercenaries prosecuting a racist, predatory war waged via abject lies & entirely criminal pretenses. If there were any justice in the world it’d be a real life documentary & the film would end with them all being blown to smithereens.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 16, 2009 @ 12:33 am

  30. Karl,

    Do you really think that imperialist wars would stop if a bunch of enlisted people got killed?

    Really?

    Perhaps you should refocus your anger towards the Rockefellers, the Morgans and the Du Ponts, and away from 19 year old E – 2’s who make less in a year than you do in a month.

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 16, 2009 @ 12:38 am

  31. They may not stop them but would certainly politically hinder them. Wars can level regimes.

    If as many GIs died in the 1st 3 years of the Gulf War as did, say, in the 1st 3 of Korea — that war would be over by now.

    Moreover, do you really imagine the 2 Gulf Wars would have been possible if the Soviets were still around?

    If not then the DuPonts, etc are irrelevant.

    As far as my anger I’ve got plenty enough left for the old blue bloods as my reserves are always directed at them.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 16, 2009 @ 12:59 am

  32. Gregory,

    I understand what you’re saying but I have to point out a few things. The entertainment industry in just that, entertainment. Sure, realism is nice and
    accuracy can be welcome but in the end we are going to see the movie to be entertained. As I recall, Hurt Locker never claimed “based on actual events,
    true story, etc” in the opening titles. I could be wrong but I don’t remember seeing anything like that. From your comments I can’t help but feel like you go to fiction to see fact. If you want fact then documentaries are the way to go. Hollywood is the realm of make-believe. Even in those “based on a true story” films so many liberties are taken that the “true story” aspect could be easily removed.

    If you want your comments to be taken seriously then you should probably steer clear of phrases like this:

    “I suspect your REAL problem here is your Caucasio-phallocratic orientation and your desire to only see White men like yourself reflected in culture, because only White men have anything important to say.”

    To me this comment labels you as a racist and a sexist. And I’m sure I’m not the only one to think this.

    I am inclined to agree with dingo; people will always find something to complain about. For someone who is getting all worked up over the exclusion of the one female in a unit of 21 soldiers (of which only three were explored in the film) you seem awfully quick to ignore the fact that this film was directed by a woman. Hmm.

    I won’t comment on the things I don’t know about (politics, religion) but I will say that in my opinion the film was well done. The only real issue I had with it was with the final scenes. Tone wise, they seemed out of sync with the rest of the film.

    Comment by Benjamin West — August 16, 2009 @ 6:58 am

  33. Benjamin,

    It’s always amazed me how here in America people who oppose racism are “racist” and people who support women’s liberation are “sexist” – that’s an almost Joseph Goebbelsian distortion – not to mention how you take YOUR opinions on my views and pretend how everybody thinks like you do and put yourself up on Mount Olympus as the arbiter of who’s opinions should be taken seriously.

    And to top it off you pretend that “entertainment” exists in some non political vacuum “it’s only make believe” and how dare anybody hold Hollywood accountable for the content of their images.

    Honesly, I suspect you are as Caucasio-phallocratic as dingo – you only want to see images of White men like yourself, and you’re mortally offended if anybody else gets their story told.

    In other words, you and dingo are the sexists and racists here!

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 16, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

  34. Louis, you seem to have very little imagination when it comes to films like “The Hurt Locker” or, to use an example you mentioned, “The Deer Hunter”. It’s almost as if you watch these movies waiting to spot some stereotype for which you can damn all those involved with the film. Are filmmakers not allowed any artistic license, just because that license deals with a negatively portrayed “enemy”? The entire premise of “The Deer Hunter” rests on the russian roulette scene that you mentioned, but because there is not historical evidence that such a thing ever took place, they aren’t allowed to film it? Watching any film that attempts to mantain a semblance of historical accuracy must be difficult for you, O arbiter of all that is true and just.

    Comment by Chad — August 16, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

  35. Chad,

    The problem with “The Deer Hunter” is that they took an atrocity that the US Army committed and claimed the Vietnamese did that atrocity – even though they never actually did that – and made that lie the centerpiece of their movie.

    Since “The Deer Hunter” was one of the first post Vietnam war films about the war, this had an ENORMOUS political effect – it paved the way for even more reactionary movies, like “Rambo – First Blood Part II” which also accused the Vietnamese of committing atrocities that were actually committed by the US Army against Vietnamese prisoners.

    Also, have you EVER seen an American movie that shows the atrocities the US Army and US Marine Corps used to commit against Vietnamese prisoners?

    If it was routine for American movies to show the routine brutality that the US military committed against Vietnamese prisoners – the electrodes to genitals, the throwing prisoners out of helicopters, the systematic rape of Vietnamese women prisoners – then it would be OK for the directors to take dramatic license.

    But, since that’s NOT the case – it’s NOT OK!

    Would you approve of a movie that showed 1940’s German Jews putting German Christians in death camps?

    Hey, you said you believe in “artistic license”!

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 16, 2009 @ 8:47 pm

  36. Gregory,

    You make it sound like every movie depicting American soldiers is propaganda used to demonize the enemy we happen to be fighting in that particular film. “The Deer Hunter” isn’t about the Vietnamese, just as “The Hurt Locker” isn’t about the Iraqis. These films tell the story of the Americans and how they deal with the conflict. Innacurate as it may be, the russian roulette scene in “The Deer Hunter” is one of the tensest moments in cinema. It perfectly captures the insanity of the Vietnam War, and the desperation of the soldiers that fought there. Why does no-one attack “Apocalypse Now” for it’s glaring innacuracies dealing with U.S. soldiers? Because of the statement the film makes. Why can’t you give “The Hurt Locker” the same liberty?

    Comment by Chad — August 16, 2009 @ 9:10 pm

  37. Wondering why your favorite words used in reviews is “over hyped”

    Keep writing you “rebel”

    Comment by Chris — August 17, 2009 @ 1:04 am

  38. Chad,

    Much of “The Deer Hunter” is in fact set in South Vietnam, and it accuses National Liberation Front guerillas and Vietnamese Peoples Army soldiers of committing atrocities against POWs – atrocities that, in the real world, were committed by American soldiers and marines against NLF and VPA troops.

    That in fact IS propaganda used to demonize the enemy.

    As for the Vietnam War itself, it was in fact NOT insane – it was an imperialist war, that made perfect sense to the rulers of America at the time – America just happened to lose that war.

    Germans make a similar argument about World War II – “Hitler was alright at first, but then he went crazy” – and, to those Germans, Hitler “went crazy” in 1944 – which happens to be when Germany started losing the war!

    Beyond that, it is racist in the extreme to have a movie take place in Vietnam or Iraq in which the central characters are Americans and the folks who’s country is being destroyed are just human backdrop for the only “real people” in the movie.

    As for “Apocalypse Now” I didn’t attack it yet because we didn’t get around to discussing it.

    My main critique of it is that it’s based on “Heart of Darkness” a very racist novel that was set in the Belgian Congo – a novel which ignored the greatest evil in Congolese history, the Belgian genocide that was inflicted on the country from 1881 to 1900.

    Maybe to you the “message” is more important than the racism or the sexism – but that is one of the privileges of being a White American male and being a member of the dominant oppressor group in our society – YOUR side of the story is always presented as the “objective” truth and anybody who dares to complain is “reverse racist” or a “feminazi” or is trying to repress White male “freedom of speech”.

    Finally, my dear Chad, you never did answer my question – would you enjoy seeing a German movie that presented Germans as the only real victims of the Holocaust?

    Or a German movie about Operation Barbarossa that had the Russians as human backdrop for a film about German moral angst?

    Hey, German national socialists have as much right to your “artistic license” of the privileged as White Americans do!

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 17, 2009 @ 1:39 am

  39. I don’t think Apocalypse Now is as war glorifying as some make it out to be: Look at how it destroyed Kurtz and remember the helicopter bombing scene with the classical music playing because the soldiers thought it’d be more thrilling?

    Comment by Jenny — August 17, 2009 @ 5:59 am

  40. Jenny,

    The commander of that air cavalry troop, Col Kilgore, was the person who decided to play the music, not “the soldiers”.

    The military has a thing called “chain of command” – officers make decisions, enlisted people don’t.

    The film reflected that accurately – if you’ll recall, the Colonel explains to Kurtz his choice of a classical music soundtrack for the attack – he believed it scared the Vietnamese. It was not because it “made it more thrilling” for the American soldiers.

    Also, in “Jarhead” they show the Marine Corps showing “Apocalypse Now” to the young marines to make them more aggressive and warlike – obviously, to that audience, it IS a pro war film!

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 17, 2009 @ 6:13 am

  41. That doesn’t mean it’s not open to interpretation though. We had to read Heart of Darkness in a college english class by the way and it was seen as an expose on the affects colonialism have on those who perpetrate it. Hell, we even discussed whether the main character actually disliked the entire operation of enslavement or simply the manner in which it was practiced. Yes, Chad and Dingo’s arguments are weak,but you also seem to be jumping on them just for having a different interpretation as well. It’s a combination really.

    Comment by Jenny — August 17, 2009 @ 8:38 am

  42. Jenny,

    Chad and Dingo seem to have some cultural chauvinism issues – I suspect they’d be happy to never ever see a person of color, or a woman of any race, as a lead in any cultural production, since the White man’s experience is “universal” and everybody elses isn’t.

    Also, Chad seems to be taking the position that the content of a cultural production is not political and is not subject to analysis and debate.

    I totally disagree with both of those positions – as I’m sure is quite clear.

    Comment by Gregory A. Butler — August 17, 2009 @ 8:45 am

  43. “Heart of Darkness” attacks the absurdities and evils of imperialism in a very powerful way, but you call it “racist” because it doesn’t make an overt reference to the Belgians’ treatments of the Congolese? Conrad was attempting to attack colonialism in a subtle and poignant fashion, but if he doesn’t say from the beginning that white men are evil, he is a “racist”? I think that, like “the unrepentant Marxist”, you’re actively trying to be offended by these movies when you can’t appreciate that they’re making a statement which (I hope) you agree with.

    Comment by Casey Shaw Shanley — August 17, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

  44. If I thought that the content of a cultural production wasn’t subject to analysis, then I wouldn’t be typing this. I think that films are always open to to interpetation and discussion. If you want to interpret films like “The Hurt Locker”, “The Deer Hunter” and “Apocalypse Now” as mechanisms for advancing the American imperialist regime, then we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.

    Comment by Chad — August 17, 2009 @ 2:19 pm

  45. I don’t think that “The Hurt Locker”, “The Deer Hunter” and “Apocalypse Now” are equivalent to the Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris movies but they do reinforce the ideas that our “enemies” are cruel, inhuman and ultimately unknowable. If I were a screenwriter, I’d try to do something like Clint Eastwood did in “Letters from Iwo Jima”. I guess that it is possible to make such a movie humanizing the Japanese because WWII was so long ago. You even get the same sort of thing with Nazi soldiers in “Das Boot”. But imagine what a Hollywood studio executive would make of a movie that had a sympathetic main character who fought with the Iraqi resistance. Impossible.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 17, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

  46. That’s a good point, Louis. “Letters From Iwo Jima” simply could not have been made 50, 40, or even 30 years ago. Maybe in 50 years, somebody will make a compelling movie about an Iraqi resistance fighter. But to do that now would be impossible.

    Comment by Chad — August 17, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

  47. Louisproyect, I think that’s true, but an Iraqi resistance fighter (i.e. one who leaves bombs in crowded streets and kills dozens or hundreds of innocent people) is very different from a Japanese soldier who has been drafted to serve in his military, or a German submarine soldier. While I’m sure that there are Iraqi resistance fighters that have little choice in their involvement, by and large there is not much sympathy to be found in their stories.

    Comment by C.S.S. — August 17, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

  48. Gregory,
    You really like playing the “stupid white man” record. If somebody says something that you disagree with, you immediately counter with something along the lines of: “Well, you must be a chauvinistic racist, so your opinion doesn’t count.” Not everybody is a close-minded biggot, and assuming that, in fact, closes your mind.

    Comment by John B. Taylor — August 17, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

  49. Louisproyect, I think that’s true, but an Iraqi resistance fighter (i.e. one who leaves bombs in crowded streets and kills dozens or hundreds of innocent people) is very different from a Japanese soldier…

    How depressing to see somebody commenting on this blog who apparently is blissfully unaware of the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, Korea and elsewhere. By comparison, the Iraqi insurgents were like Paul Revere.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 17, 2009 @ 3:40 pm

  50. The soldier that “Letters From Iwo Jima” centered around was never in the places that you mentioned.

    Comment by C.S.S. — August 17, 2009 @ 3:45 pm

  51. Obviously, the rape of Nanking was one of the worst atrocities ever commited, but the soldier whose draft we see in “Letters from Iwo Jima” wasn’t involved; otherwise we would want to see his demise and relish it. Iraqi resistance fighters are a horse of a different color because they must seek out the war that they wish to wage.

    Comment by C.S.S. — August 17, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

  52. The soldier that “Letters From Iwo Jima” centered around was never in the places that you mentioned.

    What is your point? My point–to repeat it–is that the Japanese army was guilty of far more atrocities against a civilian population than the Iraqi insurgents. A car bomb does not begin to equal the likes of this:

    From the invasion of China in 1937 to the end of World War II, the Japanese military regime murdered near 3,000,000 to over 10,000,000 people, most probably almost 6,000,000 Chinese, Indonesians, Koreans, Filipinos, and Indochinese, among others, including Western prisoners of war. This democide was due to a morally bankrupt political and military strategy, military expediency and custom, and national culture (such as the view that those enemy soldiers who surrender while still able to resist were criminals).

    full: http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP3.HTM

    Comment by louisproyect — August 17, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

  53. Iraqi resistance fighters are a horse of a different color because they must seek out the war that they wish to wage.

    Apparently you haven’t studied the Iraqi resistance in any kind of depth. In fact, most attacks were on military targets:

    http://leninology.blogspot.com/2006/08/latest-iraq-resistance-stats.html

    Comment by louisproyect — August 17, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

  54. Wait, why the hell are there two louisproyects on here?

    Gregory: It’s okay, I understand your fustration. I just disgree with your conclusions on apocalypse now and Heart of Darkness,that’s all. Peace.

    Comment by Jenny — August 17, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

  55. Louis makes a good point about the Iraqi resistance. It hasn’t been demonstrated to me that bombs that go off in, say, crowded marketplaces with civilian casualties (usually the only bombs that make the news) are automatically planted by the Iragi resistance. In fact I’m skeptical of such claims since any Iraqi resister would know in his bones that’s a wasted bomb insofar as it’s not hurting the invaders. They could be planted by Uncle Sam or his Blacwater mercenaries for all we know? Or they could be planted by outside forces like Al Queda operatives, Iranian spies, or any number of other agent provocateurs.

    Either way, one thing about the Iraqi resistance is irrefutable. If it weren’t for them then George Bush would be portrayed as some kind of genius instead of the congenital degenerate he is.

    Hell, if it weren’t for the Iraqi resistance then Bush’s fascistic minions might have him occupying the White House for a third term by now! Then again, Obama’s pretty much carrying out his third term anyway.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 17, 2009 @ 11:10 pm

  56. I fully realize everyone has an opinion and has a right to express it, but after watching “The Hurt Locker”, I now understand there are those who are out of their element reviewing films. However, I hope it’s not his insight in seeing master film making but more his politics that makes him blind to what makes a great war film.

    Comment by Cyberdactyl — August 17, 2009 @ 11:24 pm

  57. I know what great war movies are. Here are some of them:

    1. Walk in the Sun
    2. Platoon
    3. Glory (Blacks fighting during Civil War)
    4. Stalingrad (1993 German movie)
    5. Bridge over the River Kwai
    6. Lawrence of Arabia
    7. Zulu
    8. Sahara (Bogart movie)
    9. Days of Glory (Africans fighting in French army during WWII)
    10. Kanal (Polish resistance in Warsaw)
    11. The Cranes are Flying
    12. Ballad of a Soldier

    Comment by louisproyect — August 18, 2009 @ 12:02 am

  58. Hey Lou, I always thought “The Battle of Algiers” was your favorite war movie?

    Definitely one of mine.

    As for my all time favorite it’s “Paths of Glory.”

    “Dr. Strangelove” was another we discussed on an earlier thread.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 18, 2009 @ 12:22 am

  59. what do you think makes a good war movie,Louis?

    Comment by Jenny — August 18, 2009 @ 4:29 am

  60. I don’t think any list of top war movies can be complete without Elem Klimov’s “Come and See”.

    Comment by Eugene Hirschfeld — August 18, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  61. Jen: Any war movie made presupposes that sentient viewers will inexorably pose themselves the question: “Why are these people fighting?”

    Safe to say Marxists in general and Trotskyists in particular greatly appreciate when war movies artfully reflect the fact that all wars have a class basis, that oppressed conscripts get led to slaughter primarily to perpetuate their oppressors, that the biggest propaganda tools for those ends are Patriotism, that Democracy never prevented a single war.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 18, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  62. @61 “Marxists in general and Trotskyists in particular greatly appreciate…”

    A war film does not of course have to incorporate such an analysis in order to be good. From an artistic point of view it is enough to portray war truthfully as it is experienced by the people involved.

    I don’t think it’s useful by the way to separate Trotskyism from Marxism. That was important when we wished to differentiate the true Marxist position (as championed by Trotsky amongst others) against the line coming from the Soviet bureaucracy. But that is not relevant today. Trotsky should simply be seen as one of the great Marxist theorists.

    Comment by Eugene Hirschfeld — August 19, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  63. Eugene — I was careful not to say that a war film HAD to incorporate anything to be good but rather that Marxists in general & proletarian revolutionists like Trotsky in particular inexorably tend to “appreciate it” more when it’s not only good but also artfully reflects the burning social issues that engender war in the 1st place, that is, when art becomes an educator of the masses.

    I think the distinctions of Marxism are still useful lest some dumbass at, say, a town hall meeting over healthcare reform, convince some other dumbass that Obama’s some kind of Marxist.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 19, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

  64. Did you miss the fact that the film focused on the soldiers, and not the terrorists, oh, I’m sorry, “Freedom Fighters”?

    Karl, you’re an idiot. Please do the research and not get your dumb biases in the way.

    Comment by Jack Mackeral — August 20, 2009 @ 12:42 am

  65. No Jack, your the biggest idiot here if you think the Iraqi resistance aren’t fighting for freedom.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 20, 2009 @ 4:07 am

  66. I’m going to see The Hurt Locker tonight. I should say that Al Qaeda forces, or the umbrella Islamic Army, do in fact mutilate corpses, booby trap them and so on. It’s well documented that in Ramadi, and in other cities, these thugs used corpses as warning signs, threatening death to anyone who attempted to remove bodies from the streets.

    The author writes:

    “The idea that Sunni insurgents would defile the corpse of a Muslim, even if it belonged to a Shi’ite is unbelievable. As deeply religious rebels, they were and are obviously constrained by their beliefs.”

    I think this misses a crucial point. Being very religious is not constraining, but liberating. It’s not, of course, an authentic liberation, but if one believes that they are carrying out a divine plan, then one is capable of carrying out all kinds of heinous acts in its pursuit. I think the evidence from Iraq clearly demonstrates that Al Qaeda exceeded the bounds of human decency (my God, it sounds obscene to even have to say that).

    Comment by Xtabentun — August 23, 2009 @ 2:15 am

  67. For your information the boy was not supposed to be booby trapped dead! He was supposed to live through getting a bomb implanted in him walk onto the base and be blown up by another not so brave scumbag. Maybe because you haven’t been there you don’t realize that this happens everyday there. If you want to give informed review maybe you should ask someone who has been there(like me) and see what they think. It’s so easy for you to give a review from your couch about what it’s like there.

    Comment by John — August 26, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

  68. Come on Karl, you haven’t had even a sliver of coherent come out of that babble your fingers are typing.
    I know, because if you did, I would have ripped it to shreds. Stop condemning everything you happen to encounter–With all this bad attitude Karl, maybe the problem is you?

    I bookmarked this page just so I can laugh at Gregory Butler getting handled by pretty much everyone on this thread, especially Chad and Dingo.

    Below I’ve included a section you should honestly pay attention to, it will help you in the future. If there is anything else I can school you in, please, let me know.

    IMPORTANT: Yo, Gregory–Ever heard of “Ad Hominem”? No? Go ahead and Google it. I should change the name of the Wikipedia article about it to your name–I have a feeling if the admins at Wikipedia read this thread, they wouldn’t change it back. Hah.

    Comment by Matt — August 27, 2009 @ 12:16 am

  69. What’s a matter Matt? Still butt hurt Uncle Sam wasn’t greeted as a liberator?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 27, 2009 @ 12:57 am

  70. Dude, I honestly don’t understand how you could not like “In the Loop”. One of the biggest myths in America is that these types of decisions (war, economic policy, etc.) are made in the White House or other ornate and imposing government settings by elected officials at the top of the political food chain. My BS in Political Science says this this is the most accurate portrayal of how decisions are REALLY made in politics. By appointed career hacks who scurry about far away from public view in crowded conference rooms.

    No offense, but your review seems to indicate that you don’t know how big time politics actually works. The “famous” people we see on TV are simply that. TV politicians. They are figureheads who know how to get elected and give a speech. The real work in any government is done by people you’ll never hear about. Assistants and Deputy Assistants and Under-Secretaries and all kinds of other titles that you’ll never see in the mainstream media. They aren’t written about, and intentionally stay under the radar so they can switch sides and maneuver without having to publicly compromise any “on the record” positions or principles.

    Remember, there are only 436 elected people in DC. Congress and the President. And they don’t get mud on their boots. The real dirty work is done by the rest of the tens of thousands of politicians who never actually run for public office.

    I’m pretty sure this movie is about, and for, them.

    Oh yeah, and it’s absolutely hilarious. To anyone whose read this far, please do not let louisproyect’s review deter you from seeing this film. If you don’t dig politics, chances are you won’t see it anyway. But if you do, boy, are you in for a treat.

    Comment by Dan Ivers — August 28, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  71. You guys have too much time on your hands. Why not try making a movie instead of berating filmmakers for not making the film you’d like to see.

    Comment by Harper — September 1, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  72. I’ve just wasted an hour of my life reading the above comments. I think my favourite poster was “Gregory”. He sounds like a fun guy to have at parties. I wonder if he has an opinion on the colour of my wallpaper…

    Incidentally, I just saw The Hurt Locker and I thought it was pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty good. Does that make me ‘Caucasio-phallocratic’, I wonder?

    Comment by gihe — September 10, 2009 @ 1:22 am

  73. lol @ the racist angle, “if you like this movie ur racist hurr”

    Comment by Jon — January 10, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

  74. Greg is a doucher…I too wasted a hour reading this…Hurt-Locker was great…If the politics and hard facts are not exact than the people that care should shut up…thats why its called “A Movie” not a “Documentary”

    Comment by Zane — January 29, 2010 @ 1:21 am

  75. Wow, I thought, if you click on one of the five rotten tomatos, you gonna get some real critique…sorry, do not see it. In fact, you seem to know how terrorist work. I am particular fan of this section

    “Now there have been few reports of booby-trapped corpses in Iraq, but those have exclusively involved occupation forces, either military or civilian like truck drivers. The idea that Sunni insurgents would defile the corpse of a Muslim, even if it belonged to a Shi’ite is unbelievable. As deeply religious rebels, they were and are obviously constrained by their beliefs. The Muslim religion dictates a rapid burial and not the use of a dead believer’s body for a weapon.”

    Well, not hurting bodies is fine, but letting bombs explode next to women so there is nothing left to bury, is absolutely fine? I think the solution is simpler…they do not do it too often because it is not easy and takes some brutality to do so. Putting cables together is easier. Anyway, the discussion how human terrorists are, seems a bit out of proportion, considering that we all read enough about three digit deads after an attack?

    Furthermore, what is your point? It is not realistic? I do not know anyone in bomb squad, but I doubt that many men there behave like the alpha dog in front. I guess, he is not the most realistic. Yet, how do you want to show such extreme moments. You need some elements. As a top critique you might have realized that the movie barely uses music as an instrument. Nevertheless, it is the most tense movie, I ever saw.

    Just because it does not completely matches your worldview on how the Iraqi or whoever work, does it not make a bad movie. It is also not a bad movie, because it uses some generic patter. A lot of time is used for scenes describing the “dice” and it is not a Tarantino movie with 215 minutes time to introduce more characters. There are just three and it still works!!

    Comment by Georg — January 31, 2010 @ 3:29 am

  76. Hey Georg – you wouldn’t happen to be one of these imbeciles that we read about in polls that actually believes Saddam Hussein had something to do with 911 would you?

    Did it ever cross your mind that the US military has no right to have a single soldier in Iraq?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 31, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

  77. OK, let’s get this straight. This movie is clearly Miss Bigelow’s attempt to portray the Iraq war as she has seen it,
    based on her research and interviews. Period. She put a lot of hard work into showing many things about the Iraq/Afghanistan soldiers
    that have been previously unseen by most of the public. This and her attention to detail not only prop up her credibility for the viewer to believe
    that what these soldiers are doing and saying is believable, but that the conclusions she draws from the scenes she portrays are valid.
    That is where the viewer unfamiliar with being a soldier or having been deployed to the Middle East can easily slide down a slippery slope.
    At the end of the day, she got a lot of things right, some of the emotional difficulties of the job of being a soldier, the cosmetic details of the
    modern soldier, and obvious eyewitness and expert based reporting of how the surroundings really are in Iraq. But what she got wrong, in my opinion is the motivation.
    “War is a drug?” Please. Obviously borrowed from some peacenik sign at Woodstock. Other than suspecting a male adrenaline rush or brainwashed idiots, Bigelow can’t
    seem to fathom motivations like honest belief in the war because obviously she doesn’t. That’s what it boils down to. She portrayed 3 main characters acting in a war that
    she doesn’t believe in. And they act accordingly. And what a shock. Hollywood stands up and applauds. Bottom line is, it’s dishonest to pretend her beliefs and motivations
    about the war aren’t the lynchpin of the script. Of course you could say that didn’t matter to her. But I doubt that.

    Comment by Chris — April 4, 2010 @ 5:36 am

  78. Chris. An even larger point is this: Anybody who really has “honest belief in the war” deserves to learn the hard way that it was criminally motivated by a predatory empire and based on a long proven pack of lies. Does anybody give a shit that some Nazi soldiers may have also had a “honest belief” in the righteousness of WWII?

    Moreover, your implication that somehow the filmakers were inspired by pascifist hippie slogans is disgusting.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 4, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

  79. Jenny, Casey Shaw Shanley:

    I cannot help but hold steadfastly to the belief that there no such thing as non-political art, and in most cases of a fundamentalist nature, fostering a wide ideological spectrum across space while simultaneously availing itself of the Other (read non-Western cultures) as a veritable prop, backdrop, indeed, to the extent that it becomes derivative to its own self-serving narrative. In fact, the Western canon of literature, even at its most lucid, eloquent and expressive is informed by a certain inherent cultural hegemony and exceptionalism par excellence. Joseph Conrad, as literary interpreter (and apologist) of British Liberal ambiguities, ambitions, greed, thirst for power as it relates to race and Imperialism, is no exception, if you consider the following musing by Marlow:

    “The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slighter flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea— something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to…”

    If we follow this logic (“too much”?) it would seem that Marlow is urging the necessity to conquer inasmuch as it obeys “something” bigger than us: “an idea” firmly entrenched behind this conceit of travel, adventure, foreign excursions and similar enterprises as depicted in literary texts and hiding behind the veil of pure reading an entertainment pleasure. “The horror, the horror,” as the last incantation by Kurtz in the movie Apocalypse Now serves as a primal attraction and pretext to justify “the idea” of domination and subjugation “one of the dark places of the earth”.

    As a talented and accomplished writer, Conrad does offer an eloquent fictional rendition of Empire at work, but similarly, intentionally or not, seems to be lending his consent and approval of the entire affair in the very same narrative so as to justify the inevilability of Colonialism…

    Comment by Francisco — April 5, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

  80. To understand any of the falacies of all of the war movies you need to understand what makes a truly great movie: succeeding on multiple levels. If you think about a great movie as a pyramid you need to have different layers that all support one another to make a complete structure. Starting with plot, subplot, social critique, religious critique, etc. How you determine a movies effectiveness (in particular war movies) is on what level you analyze the flim. In my opinion, The Hurt Locker excells in the political critique of the war (Renner is the US and all that) but utterly fails in the foundation of plut, thus a bad movie. Anti-war movies construed as pro-war are misinterpreted because they are only viewed on one level. I am in the military and I hate to say it but most military men and women are not smart enough to look at the deeper meaning of such movies. The Hurt Locker, Jarhead, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, can all be viewed by the War Monger as saying “Hooray for death, destruction and violence”. However they are all trying to show on a different level the futility, brutality, depravation, etc. of war. What all aforementioned movies have that the Hurt Locker doesn’t, is a believable, entertaining plot. Give me that before you try to get philosphical.

    Comment by Matthew — July 19, 2010 @ 11:09 am

  81. Louis, regardless of the complaints about its lack of political relevancy, did you find “In the Loop” at all funny?

    Comment by Thomas — July 19, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

  82. In the process of dissembling “The Hurt Locker” to take unwieldy jabs at our racist and imperialist society, you people have missed the central point of the movie entirely. And Gregory, your “caucasio-phallocratic” rants are obnoxious.

    Comment by Hank — July 26, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

  83. This film did not disappoint.. What I mean is I was expecting a gun ho American war film and this is what we got. No realism at all. Anyone behaving in the way that the main character did would be severely disciplined. Nothing seemed real. You can’t just play on the tension thing (which there was none) and expect to get away with it.

    This is a poor film. I got bored very quick.

    I should have known at the start when the wheel (literally) came off the wagon. Professionals would have checked, checked again and then for good measure checked again.

    It was comical seeing it happen. I served in the British army in Northern Ireland and oversaw many bomb disposal incidents and none went with the disfuctionality of what we saw in this film.

    Then it goes and wins the Oscars and Baftas. Those of you who think this film shows what bomb disposal is all about need a serious reality check. This film is an insult to the real people who have to do this job. Shameful

    Comment by Susu.ro — January 2, 2015 @ 9:15 am


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