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Customer Review

645 of 872 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Iraq War Veteran's Perspective, February 6, 2010
A Kid's Review
This review is from: The Hurt Locker (DVD)
Had I not served in Iraq in 2004, perhaps I could have maintained a suspension of disbelief and enjoyed the film. However, it is extremely irritating to have the producers of this film and high-level movie critics gush about an "accurate depiction of war" when it is about as close as 2001: A Space Odyssey is to an accurate depiction of NASA. The writer claimed he spent "some time" embedded with an EOD unit, but I can't imagine his time amounted to too much more than a week.

Let's start with some glaring discrepencies. In the film, all soldiers seen are wearing uniforms known as ACUs, which feature the digital camouflage pattern. In 2004, those uniforms had not yet been fully developed or issued. Soldiers wore the DCUs, which feature tan and brown woodland-style camouflage patterns. ACUs were being field-tested with select units, but the prototypes still retained the traditional camo. At that time, only the Marines were wearing uniforms with digital patterns, though their uniforms feature different color patterns and different cuts. Additionally, every soldier wears an American flag patch on the right shoulder. These were conspicuously absent throughout.

The presentation of humvees and other military vehicles add a further level of unreality. Military vehicles typically have unit and vehicle identifations stenciled on bumpers, doors, or hoods. The names of principle occupants are usually stenciled on each side of the windshield. The dashboard and area between the front seats is packed full of radio equipment. There are generally MREs and misc. mission oriented debris lying around the interior. Not much of this was evident. What was evident was the utterly and completely absurd medivac scene that featured HUEY helicopters. Yes, those same Hueys that saw a great deal of service during the Vietnam War, but have long been replaced by the ubiquitous Blackhawk.

The ridiculous misrepresentation, misuse, and absence of military equipment continues on down to things like night optical devices (NODs). NODs are those things soldiers strap to their helmets and flip down over their eyes to see in the dark. All throughout the movie, the three main characters are shown to have the NOD mounting plates attached to their helmets. Yet, when they tear off on a hunt for bad guys during a night mission they run around shining flashlights, which is tactically one of the dumbest things a soldier could do.

Running around with flashlights at night is but one example of things real soldiers would not do. They would not split up "to cover more ground." An enlisted soldier would not call a colonel "colonel." He would call the colonel "sir." A soldier would not sneak out of base disguised as a civilian, hijack an Iraqi's car at gunpoint, confront an Iraqi family, then weasel his way back on base with the lame excuse he'd been to whorehouse. There would have been serious consequences to his actions. The film gives the impression that the three EOD soldiers are gun totin' cowboys who answer to no one. In reality, there would be commanding officer who would, at the least, issue operation orders and hold the NCOs to a certain level of accountability.

The characters themselves are fairly unbelievabe. They don't talk like real soldiers. I didn't hear "hooah" uttered once. Nor did I hear much of the plethora of abbreviations and acronyms that comprises the military jargon spoken by soldiers. While SSG James' two sidekicks are cardboard cut-outs of Hollywood military cliches, James himself is an erratic, irresponsible, borderline-psychopath who would not last long in the leadership of men or the diffusement of bombs. His obsession/concern for the Iraqi boy he has unrealistically befriended is completely out of character.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. On the plus side, the landscape does look like Iraq, and the urban shots replicate the appearance of Baghdad quite well. The acting is adequate, I suppose, but I was not particularly enthusiastic about any specific performance. Quite frankly, it amazes me that they would make a film this sloppy and inaccurate, when correct information is so readily available. As it is, this is not a realistic war movie; it is a fantasy with nearly as much imagination as Avatar.

On a closing note, if you want to see an excellent film that provides an accurate view of the Iraq War in 2004, check out "The War Tapes." It's a documentary shot by soldiers themselves, and provides honest insight into the impact of war's daily grind.
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Tracked by 11 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 144 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 7, 2010 7:43:21 PM PST
valis says:
Just curious, why does your review appear as "A Kid's Review" if you are a war veteran?

Posted on Feb 8, 2010 5:39:14 AM PST
Rextrent says:
Thanks for serving and the input on the film.

Posted on Feb 8, 2010 10:09:28 PM PST
Pam Arrant says:
To A Kid's Review - I would just like to extend my gratitude for your service in the war against Iraq. Regardless of whether you support the war or not the reality is that our soldiers are over there fighting a war that could end their lives in a split second as many have paid the ultimate price. I believe that as an American citizen we must respect and support our soldiers for the sacrifice they are making or have made. Once again, thank you very much for your and your family's sacrifice for the United States of America.

Posted on Feb 9, 2010 9:02:25 AM PST
With all due respect for someone who risked his or her life in Iraq, I disagree with "A kid's review" on a number of points. First, while there are inaccuracies galore (the incident with James' harassing an Iraqi family was bizarre, if taken literally), the film provides a profound aspect to the experience of war, especially the Iraqi war. Inaccurate depictions can be critical, but not in this case. One would not view "2001" as an accurate depiction of space flight, but that would miss the point of the movie. One might just as well dismiss "Hamlet" on the grounds that it does not accurately render 16th century Danish courtlife. And I suggest that "A kid's review" is based on a misunderstanding of the film's use of metaphor and drama to make a different moral and psychological point: Jeremy Renner's character has lost all sense of reality and proportion, and yet he is compelled by his own emptiness (or his desire to do the right or kind thing -- his desire is never fulfilled) to continue to do "his job." "The Hurt Locker" is unsentimental, disturbing, and psychologically complex -- it is also not a literal depiction, nor was it intended as such. For cinematic reasons, James' team used flashlights rather than night goggles so that the audience could see what they were seeing in relationship to the team's position and movements. Moreover, the use of flashlights raised tensions by making their environment shadowy, unsteady and labyrinthine to the eye. Back to James' leaving his post in mufti, hijacking an Iraqi vehicle, and terrorizing an Iraqi family only opens the door to James' increasingly distorted view of reality. He wants revenge (maybe, he doesn't know) and has no idea what he's doing or why -- and he knows this, but he must do it because of his own sense of justice and decency. From the standpoint of military law, he probably should have been arrested and courtmatialed. But that's not the point; James's world is one of deception and loss, not one of literal fact. A similar scenario is played out when he risks his life and that of others chasing after insurgents who blew up a tanker. An important scene not mentioned is his failed attempt to save an Iraqi man who has a bomb strapped to his body. Regardless of what he does, James' persona cannot cover his own incapacity to make a difference. Consider what the "hurt locker" is -- that's the basket of bomb parts that could have killed him, but that he dismantled, or, rather, overcame in order to do good. He is also suffering from hubris; after he returns "home" to indifference and the emptiness of "normal" life, he decides to re-inlist because the army needs techs to dismantle bombs. Is he the only tech? No, he continues to risk his life because as Chris Hedges says -- Hedges is quoted at the start of the movie -- "war gives life its meaning" -- monstrous as that is (and I fear true), that is the underlying argument of the movie. I agree with the criticism that the movie has unrealistic aspects, but a "willing suspension of disbelief" opens up levels of understanding that are rare in "war movies." I also don't think that the movie is apolitical; I suggest that James is a stand in for America's own self-understanding, courage and, ultimately, its confusion about what it was (is) trying to achieve in the world.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 9, 2010 8:00:07 PM PST
Octoworm says:
When I posted this review, I accidentally clicked the button stating that I'm under 13. At the same time this somehow locked me out of editing my review, so I have not yet corrected it. Sorry if this causes any confusion about how a 13 year old could serve in the military.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 9, 2010 8:18:11 PM PST
Octoworm says:
It sounds like you enjoyed the movie and got a lot out of it, which is fine. I understand that if one has no military background, the facts won't get in the way of the "message." One of my concerns that led me to post this review, is that I've had a number of friends with no military/wartime experience gush about how realistic the film is. My point is that the story is so divorced from the reality of Iraq in 2004 that much of what it is trying to say loses relevance and grounding. Further, if the film-makers had paid more attention to little details like speech, tactics, uniforms, equipment, accepted military conduct, etc, I could have been a bit more forgiving of the more extreme flights of fancy that were apparently required for character development. As it stands the movie is far more a monument to sloppy film-making than anything else.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 11, 2010 9:29:08 AM PST
Nice APS. Makes me wish I took a "film appreciation" class in college. Also, nice job to "A Kid's Review". I enjoyed you both for giving me a "point/ counter-point" perspective. Both of you were "eye openers" for me. Thanx much.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 12, 2010 9:42:20 AM PST
Jon says:
First of all, thank you for your service. I saw the movie this weekend, and I liked it immensely and was a bit surprised by your review. I can understand, however, that it must be frustrating to see your profession misrepresented. I did want to say two things in defense of the movie that hadn't been said before.

The movie is not a big-budget flick. They had an $11 million, presumably a large share of which covered the costs of shooting in Jordan. They use what they have, and things like modern Blackhawks were probably not affordable. Same goes for fancy lighting setups that would allow them to shoot scenes in low-light so that they don't have to resort to giving the soldiers flash-lights. There's just a lot of realism that is simply outside of the budget. If someone thinks this is a literal depiction of military operations in Baghdad, they probably ought to consult their local veteran. But then again, I don't think that's what people mean when they say it's realistic. Which leads me to the second point...

This movie is very different than the other war movies that define the canon. To someone who is not a veteran, this movie feels far more authentic than almost any other movie out there. It's not based on the uniforms, the helicopters, or the failure to properly address superiors. It's the fact that for many of us non-veterans, this movie is really, really, stressful. It's probably not stressful to you, because you lived through it. But to us, this movie is completely different than Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, and almost every other war movie I can think of in the way that it involves the audience. I'm sitting there rooting for Jeremy Renner to disarm the bomb in the trunk while frantically wondering, "what is the guy doing with the video camera? Why are there people on the minaret? Why are they waving at each other? Are they threats? Does he have a rifle?" This movie attempts to distill the stress of a year's worth of tiptoeing around IEDs into a two-hour experience. And since I haven't served in Iraq, this is the closest I'm going to get to understanding this perspective. I think that's the contribution of the movie, the ability to take us non-military audience and bring as close as possible to the conflict without judgment. Documentaries are great, and I love watching them too, but they bring a different experience--they show you surroundings, they present the facts, they show how things are. But they are frequently feel detached from the experience, and I think that a shortcoming that The Hurt Locker tries to bring to the audience. When you watch the documentary that you recommended, I bet that your experience allows you to fill in a lot of these gaps that are missing for people like me.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 12, 2010 4:15:03 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 12, 2010 4:20:08 PM PST
Octoworm says:
To J. Huntley, I appreciate your perspective, but part of my point is that this movie is so far detached from reality that you are really not getting a feel for how it was.

I think a great modern example of how it's done right is "Blackhawk Down." This was a film that got the visual presentation, the dialogue, and the combat tactics right. There are points in the story that deviated from what actually happened, but I wasn't bothered so much because they got the feel right.

I'd also like to reiterate my endorsement of "The War Tapes." In this case a real army infantry platoon was given video equipment to film the duration of their 2004 deployment themselves. You will see real soldiers reacting to real IEDs and other daily stresses, and offering candid views on the situation. Based on my own experience, this film will take you the closest to experiencing the war in Iraq, if that is what you are looking for in a movie.The War Tapes

Posted on Feb 17, 2010 1:30:21 PM PST
C. Curtis says:
I am a U.S. Army Paratrooper and a Iraq Vet I was in OIF I and III and am in Iraq right now. I agree with the reviewer mostly, all the flaws are true that he pointed out. But its just a movie that has some deep message its telling. All war movies have flaws, did anyone ever watch "Platoon" one of the dudes had a M4 in it and the Army didn't have those back then.
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