Has anyone reading this been to Iraq? If the answer is no, then... YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT WAS LIKE, MAN!!! YOU WEREN'T THERE!!!
Whew. Now that I have that out of my system...
The Hurt Locker came out on DVD yesterday, and as I had read several very positive reviews from reputable sources, I went ahead and bought the DVD so that we -- myself, J, and Big Pappa, all hardened combat vets ourselves -- could watch it and offer up a review.
Let me begin by saying that, overall, it was a good movie. The pace was good, acting was well above average, special effects were quite well done, and the production was exceptional considering that it's not exactly a high-budget Hollywood flick.
The movie follows a team of Army EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) soldiers during their last couple of months in Iraq. The team is forced to adjust to a new leader who seems to be a bit of a thrill-seeker after losing their first one in a bomb blast. Due to the adventurous nature of the new leader, the team finds itself in multiple situations that raise the heart-rate to a near-explosive level for the other soldiers.
Now for the down and dirty (enough of this "plot" nonsense, eh?): although I liked it, there were some glaring problems I saw that could have been corrected with little effort on behalf of the production company and the film would not have suffered. I do realize that dramatic license must be applied from time to time in order to make things more enjoyable for the viewer. But most of the problems I saw were not ones that would make it less exciting, but rather just more realistic.
For instance, at the beginning of the movie the caption on the screen reads "Baghdad, 2004." We see a very well done set that very much resembles Iraq (not sure where they filmed it) and some soldiers patrolling, all in their uniforms which were very well done and completely accurate. If it were 2008. The U.S. Army did not have ACUs in 2004, but rather DCUs; nor was everyone using M4s (many units were still carrying the old musket, the M-16). Many viewers probably say "so what, it's not that big a deal." Well... yeah, you're probably right, but it's the attention to detail that I think sets movies apart; just overlooking stuff and saying "ahhh skip it, only a few people will notice" lends to shoddy work all around.
Which leads to the next problem -- throughout the movie, our heroes are seemingly out on their own. They arrive at the scene of a bomb/IED...alone. They patrol up a street to the bomb....alone. They go out to dispose of ordnance...alone. Granted, I was not there in 2004, but I've never seen EOD do anything alone. Ever. In fact, the only time they got out of their truck was to inspect ordnance. No patrolling, no pulling security against snipers, nada.
Keep in mind, this is not to take away from EOD. On the contrary; they have a very specific job that they do quite well. They are not needed for the other tasks, and because of that they are free to concentrate on their job -- preventing things from blowing up where they shouldn't, and making them blow up where they should.
In other words, their job is pretty exciting as it is. Hollywood magic is not really necessary to spruce it up.
My biggest point of contention with the film comes at what is probably the best action scene in the movie. The EOD team is out -- alone, again -- and runs into a team of British...contractors? Special Forces? They are dressed in Haji garb and it's never made clear what they are for sure. Either way, they are dressed like dudes who have been there and done that, and have a couple of prisoners.
I won't completely spoil the events, but all of them together come under fire from some bad guys and are forced to take cover in a ditch. One of the Brits has a .50 caliber sniper rifle, so they attempt to use it to engage the snipers who attacked them, who are...apparently over a thousand yards away. So far, in fact, that the Americans and Brits have problems hitting them accurately with their .50 cal.
For those non-gun people out there, let me explain: there is no hand-held rifle in the arsenal of any Arab military force that can cover that distance accurately, let alone out-shoot Brit snipers with that kind of weaponry. Which leads me to the issue I have with this: why would the producers of the movie go out of their way to make bad guys look better and Western forces appear incompetent? I know it's a small detail, but it's almost like a conscious effort in movies these days to make our military look weaker than the enemy we are fighting. As critical as I am of the U.S. Military, we are far superior to anything a Middle Eastern country has produced. Ever.
The classic blooper of the movie occurred at this point, as well, when they tried to use the sniper rifle but couldn't because it was jammed. Why was it jammed? Because there was "blood" on the bullets in the magazine. Uhh...what? If blood makes weapons jam, we are in serious trouble... Rest assured, it would have worked just fine. But here again, it would not have detracted from the movie had they changed this part to reflect a more realistic problem. Like, say, maybe a female soldier unable to participate because she was asleep? Ohhh come on, that would never happen, right? RIGHT??? Keep telling yourself that...
That being said, I liked the movie. It was definitely the best thing I've seen regarding the current conflict, and it did a good job of staying away from the whole everyone-comes-back-broken-with-PTSD theme that plague so many films in this genre. It may also be good to keep in mind that I watched the movie with two friends who I deployed with, so we may have had a lot of open commentary that forced us to miss portions of the film. Possibly.
I would highly recommend it in your Netflix que or from the Redbox, as it is certainly better than most of what is out there.
On a slightly related note, Kelly Crigger has a great piece over at Ranger Up telling about the passing of a true American hero, and how preoccupied people are with Tiger Woods and the like instead of guys like Robert Howard. Take the time to check it out.