A word from Stephen Hunter

Last night we went to see the film “The Hurt Locker” at the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis. I hadn’t even heard of the film before we went in to see it and couldn’t believe how good it was. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, written by Mark Boal, the film puts the viewer inside experience of an Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (bomb squad) team serving in day Iraq. It’s a harrowing film that stays with you after you leave the theater.

Wanting to bring the film to the attention of our readers, we appealed to a higher authority for his estimate of the film. We invited Pulitzer Prize-winning former Washington Post chief film critic and novelist Stephen Hunter to provide us a paragraph or two on the film.

Steve’s most recent collection of film criticism is Now Playing at the Valencia; his most recent Bob Lee Swagger novel is Night of Thunder.

Steve has graciously responded to our invitation for his take on “The Hurt Locker.” He writes:

“The Hurt Locker” is the best of the many films ostensibly set in Iraq. A lot, of course, has to do with the higher craft of the film: superb perfrmances (especially by Jeremy Renner), a wonderful sense of action and tension that is the trademark of the director, Kathryn Bigelow; vivid attention to details; art direction that convinces you you are absolutely in Badhad in the scary summer of 2004.

But the main reason is conceptual: this is a story of men in war, and the war happens to be in Bagdhad; too many (in fact all) of the others were policy statements essentially geared to express the higher morality of the makers. Their work, therefore, was both generic and narcicisstic; it took place in no recognizeable place, time or culture, but was really about the moral preening of the filmmaker. They were interested in “the truth,” whereas Bigelow and her screenwriter (and imbed-vet) Mark Boal were interested in the facts.

So there you have it. Many thanks to Stephen Hunter for his take on the film.

UPDATE: We are grateful for this testimonial from one of our readers in Arlington, Virginia:

I wish to second your opinion about “The Hurt Locker,” which truly is a superb movie (but remember, it’s a movie and not a training film!).

I’m a former Navy EOD Technician and continue to work in the field. Every EOD Tech I’ve talked to feels the same way – it’s a great movie that treats our military members in an honorable way. I’m baffled by those who contend it’s anti-military because the Colonel let the insurgent who tried to kill his soldiers bleed out – surely those making this complaint didn’t make the same argument against Band of Brothers just because CAPT Speirs executed unarmed German soldiers.

The critics also contend it’s anti-military because of the opening line “war is a drug.” Well, war may or may not be a drug, but danger surely is. Ask anyone who routinely takes physical risks and they will tell you that one reason they do so is for the rush (think parachuting, hang gliding, etc.).

I got to see the movie Thursday at a special screening at the US Navy Memorial in Washington. The event was sponsored by a wonderful organization, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). I encourage your readers to go to www.taps.org and consider donating.

The star of the movie, Jeremy Renner, was there and he was absolutely charming, going out of his way to take extra time to talk with the former EOD Techs. He made a point to mention how privileged he was to get to know members of the community and to be able to tell their story. He was personable, self-deprecating and funny – I wish him all the best in his career.

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