The carping about lack of strict military accuracy in The Hurt Locker is bogus, clueless. Apocalypse Now was riddled with factual errors and it is one of the greatest war films ever made. Patton also has many mistakes, so does The Bridge on the River Kwai. Saving Private Ryan has tons of inaccuracies. All war films do, and that has little bearing on their artistic quality. That's because movies can never be completely factually accurate, nor do they need to be. The point is to convey accurately some other kind of truth: emotional, artistic, social, intellectual.
It's not fair to blame veterans advocate Paul Rieckhoff for the title of his Newsweek online article assailing The Hurt Locker for its military inaccuracies, but its headline — "When Cinema Verité Isn't" — does repeat his basic error: this simply isn't cinema verité. It is fiction.
I understand Rieckhoff's point that less than 1% of Americans have fought in Iraq, and so most of us have little conception of how members of the armed forces conduct themselves there. But it is not the responsibility of a filmmaker to micromanage every little detail of her work just to satisfy the exacting public relations concerns of a special interest group. In The Hurt Locker director Kathyrn Bigelow's case, the responsibility of the filmmaker is solely to make a powerful movie that shows us something about why we make war.
"The idea that you'd put yourself in so much unnecessary danger is not only irresponsible, it's reckless, and that's really not what our EOD [Explosive Ordinance Disposal] techs do," Rieckhoff complained to NPR. But at least one military man strongly disagrees with Rieckhoff: Master Sgt. Jeffrey S. Sarver is suing the producers of The Hurt Locker because he believes the main character is based on him. He even claims to have coined the term "hurt locker." So much for lack of verisimilitude.
But Rieckhoff is totally missing the point anyway; The Hurt Locker is a work of fiction designed to achieve a much larger goal than correctly illustrating military chains of command. Or as Jim O'Neil said to NPR, "You know, it's a movie, not a training film." Jim O'Neil was a Navy bomb disposal expert during the 1991 Persian Gulf War; he now runs the EOD Memorial Foundation. Even he gets what Rieckhoff cannot.
Let's leave the picayune trainspotting about rifle sights and incorrect uniforms to people who have no powers of imagination or sense of poetry — and instead enjoy the best movie of the year for what it is: a brilliant metaphor for America's addiction to war.