It's been really interesting to see how many people have completely missed the point of The Hurt Locker. One film-fan friend of mine declared that the film is an "almost jingoistic America first video game-ish action film that promotes hyper-masculine individualism, celebrates stunted male adolescent irresponsibility, stereotypes Iraqi and Muslims and mocks genuine peace keepers."
Well, yes, exactly. But neither The Hurt Locker nor its director Kathryn Bigelow advocates those things. In fact, quite the opposite. You see, the film is metaphorical.
The key to understanding The Hurt Locker is to pay close attention to the quotation from American (anti-)war journalist Chris Hedges shown at the very beginning of the film: "The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug." The line is from Hedges' book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, which argues that, like some individuals, some entire societies are hooked on war. That ought to be a big clue about where Bigelow is coming from.
The Hurt Locker is an extended metaphor about America's addiction to war. The bomb-defuser guy represents that addiction -- endless, foolish, irresponsible, probably insane but allowed to have its way. Like America itself, he is a war junkie. The reckless cowboy approach has worked so far, but eventually, it will all blow up in our face. We will o.d. on war.
Read what my friend said again: "an almost jingoistic America first video game-ish action film that promotes hyper-masculine individualism, celebrates stunted male adolescent irresponsibility, stereotypes Iraqi and Muslims and mocks genuine peace keepers." That's precisely how the Bush-Cheney administration approached the invasion of Iraq.
I thought that was brilliant, but apparently, a whole lot of people, from my friend to Chris "I'm the Second-Craziest Man on Cable News" Matthews to progressive veterans' rights advocate Paul Rieckhoff, completely missed that crucial metaphor, so perhaps that is a shortcoming of the film. Perhaps this is a problem with using tools like extended metaphor or irony in popular entertainment -- most people won't get it. I'm reminded of Neil Young's bitter "Keep On Rockin' in the Free World," which was misinterpreted as a jingoistic anthem.
But I thought The Hurt Locker was great. In fact, it was dead-on.