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the hurt locker and the “fog of war”

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Just watched The Hurt Locker on pay-per-view, and sure it’s wonderfully exciting and slick. But the other thing it is, or rather does, is the same pernicious thing that “higher quality” American war films, films thematically-centered on the “ambiguities of war” have been doing for decades. That is, it repeatedly puts the viewer through the most baffling aspect of counter-insurgent combat – the serial inability to discern enemy combatant from native non-combatant, the guy peddling counterfeit DVDs from the guy strapped with plastique, the “good guy” family man from the terrorist plotter, the corner-working prostitute from the would-be assassin. In focusing on these moments of indiscernability, it trains its audience not in the art of making split-section distinctions (because films are wired to surprise – thus your best guess will always be a wrong guess) but in the fact that such distinctions can’t in fact be made.

I have no doubt, in other words, that The Hurt Locker captures (albeit, I’m sure, in a cinematically intensified form) something of what it feels like to be an American soldier in Iraq. I only worry that the visceral training that it provides means something different to the GI in the field and the citizen at home seated in the court of public opinion.

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 14, 2010 at 9:23 am

Posted in movies, war

2 Responses

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  1. Ads,

    Well, I did not find The Hurt Locker wonderfully exciting. I found it tiresome. Yankee macho male bonding adrenalin porn, hand-held for maximum edge-of-the-seat agitation. Stimulating a twitching nerve-ending = “box office”.

    “Visceral training,” yes. A form of conditioning for which I had not contracted and to which, living in an American city, I was in any case already all too well inured. You walk down the street knowing violence may explode at any moment. So what else is new.

    But that’s entertainment… as long as it’s happening inside that great excuse for evasion, denial and dullness known as “the medium”.

    And all Iraqis in the film are pictured as more or less loathsome.

    Far superior, really, on the theme of that awful war, was this.


    March 17, 2010 at 3:51 am

  2. Ads,

    Sorry about flopping up on your beach as “Anonymous”. I hate it when that happens at my place. Thought I was already signed in. Sorry.

    tom clark

    March 17, 2010 at 3:55 am

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