Hurt Locker: War Films Are Back

Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/loadmagazine/3786494565/">Fan the Fire Magazine</a>

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


It’s hard not to gush about Hurt Locker‘s cleanup of the Academy Awards last night. The film, which details the life of an explosive ordnance disposal team in Iraq, was itself an insurgent engaged in an asymmetric war with a high-cost, high-revenue, CGI popcorn thriller (we all know who that is). But besides earning the first Oscar honors for a female director, and being the lowest-grossing “best picture” winner ever, Hurt Locker could be still more groundbreaking: It could pull complex, nuanced war stories out of the art houses and back into favor with commercial audiences and producers.

That’s no small feat. Just a few years ago, Michael Moore was being booed off the stage for giving his not-so-nuanced take on the freshly minted Iraq campaign. Since then, a bevy of Iraq-related films (In the Valley of Elah, Redacted, Brothers et al) have been relegated to the margins of American culture, deemed too violent, too political, or just too damned in-your-face at a time when the American public would like to forget its ongoing expeditionary forays. (Last year, as a PR person for the US military in Iraq, I felt like I was Sisyphus rolling a boulder uphill just trying to get any mention of the war in the mainstream media.) But today, Hurt Locker has penetrated the American pop psyche like no war film since Saving Private Ryan—albeit in a completely different way, which is fitting for a movie that chronicles a completely different war, waged by a completely different America.

To be fair, Hurt Locker, too, doesn’t satisfy the “been there, done that” war grunt’s attitude—a hunger for accuracy or patriotic fervor that the political right has always used to torpedo war films deemed lacking in the John Wayne rah-rah factor. Some of the movie’s less realistic points—like US soldiers roaming the streets of Baghdad alone after dark—are the subject of fair ridicule, and “going all Hurt Locker” has now entered the warfighter’s lexicon, referring to someone who’s being overly dramatic. (The conservative school of thought here, apparently, is that realism is the only mode appropriate to war drama—unless the reality is inglorious, in which case, contrived glory wins.)

But today, even some of the Iraq war’s biggest (and most laughable) proponents are praising Hurt Locker‘s triumph. Apparently, conservatives are now ready to brook some dialogue about war and art, and what their intersection can tell us about ourselves. They’re also calculating, I think, that more war references in popular culture will “bring the war home,” reminding the civilian public of what’s being done abroad in its name. For completely different reasons, I can only hope that they’re right.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate