Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Hurt Locker

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." -
George Orwell

I was quite pleased to see that The Hurt Locker won Best Picture and Director over Dances with Smurfs, er, I mean Avatar. Avatar was a visual feast with a somewhat weak story I heard, but The Hurt Locker is all around an incredible movie, one that should have had a lot more attention when it was in the theaters.

For a woman of words, there are few that describe this film well. Taut, incredibly intelligent, going somewhere deep in the heart of the psyche, a place some people really don't want to go. Some will view it and not pick up all the noise going on, there in the silence, or the silence there in all the noise, but it was there and deeply felt. I don't say this often but it was film that literally took my breath away.
The main character, James, appears on the surface to be a one dimensional cowboy, find the explosive, break the rules, disarm it, yet he remained to the very end, endlessly enigmatic for the illusory contradictions that perpetually fray his very being. The others, contradictions perhaps, yet not, with an adherence to structured direction and a guarded camaraderie so steadfast as to be almost baseless. I found the film psychologically astute for I've seen some of the personalities, working along side of them in the field, and now at home, many transitioning back to jobs stateside. These are the individuals who lived such days.

I read reviewers that seemed to dislike the movie because of their personal feelings about the war. There were others that said "wooden characters". Flawed? Yes, Wooden? No. Those that say such things are people that obviously have lived life in the safe little aquarium of kum ba ya land.

But I'm not above picking apart any film. Certainly parts of me looked at it closely. Let's just say I know a fair bit about explosives (from the good guy perspective) . And of course, there were some deep inaccuracies there, but not so the layman would notice. I'm not shy about critiquing the technical aspects of movie as it's watched, even if sometimes only Barkley listens.

Of course there are the guns. I notice those gaffes as well. Sure there were a few technical "huh's?", but overall I would not fault the film for that. Likely bringing in weapons for filming was a challenge to say the least. But I noticed a few familiar faces. A Beretta 92 (distinguished by a rounded trigger guard and butt-mounted magazine release) which later somehow changes to a Beretta 92 FS.

A Glock 19 (carried by the "on screen too quickly" Ralph Fiennes).

An M4A1 Carbine (oldie but goodie) but hey, wasn't there was a buttstock exchange between the 3rd and 4th generation stocks in the same scenes and in one scene an ACOG scope was briefly replaced by a red dot sight, before switching back. I think I saw an M16A4 (but those might have been airsoft replicas) .Then, a great sequence with a sand blasted Barret M107 (below with the main character spotting). In that scene you saw how really difficult it is to sight and kill a target operating behind and around cover. (Though I think the 50 cal bullets from the M107 would have cut through that mud hut like butter). A contractor's weapon in the movie, used after an ambush, you get a good look at. It's a weapon that can be used to detonate IED's as an anti material rifle so it made sense to me anyway, that the characters picked it up and used it to their best advantage.

Then, of course the AKM rifles, carried by both insurgents and the Iraqi National Guard. There was an FPK/PSL sniper rifle. an M2HB mounted on an Army Humvee and a host of things this gal isn't trained enough to recognize at one viewing. But still, a great view of equipment in action and handled well by the actors.

But all the gear wasn't wasn't what made this a "must see" movie, for me anyway. It was the psychological experience of being there with soldiers, good and not so good, brothers and enemies under the harsh sun. What made this film was not the technical aspects you could pick apart, but the real look into the adrenalin rushed, agonizingly difficult life of a soldier in a combat zone. It put a face on so many who really do not get the recognition for their service they deserve. There were a couple of scenes that really stood out for me, one in which James has a metal box of bits of the bombs he's diffused - "things that almost killed me".

His comrades are looking at it and one pulls out a wedding ring on a chain and queries why that is in there. James says "like I said, things that almost killed me."

Too often we forget that the people fighting overseas are more than soldiers. Flawed or perfect, they're still husbands, they're wives, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. Those we know and love, far from home.
Safe in our own world, we too easily forget the dangers these courageous souls face each day. We turn on the news and see news of an attack, another roadside bomb, another suicide bomber.I recalled another attack, this one hitting close to home. The massacre at the Radisson at Amman, Jordan, where I had just stayed just days prior, my survival not a matter of my fundamental beliefs, just timing.
Yet I almost hate to turn on some channels to only see another liberal diatribe against the war on terror. I agree with James Pavitt "The terrorist organizations are penetrable. I want every one of those SOBs looking over their shoulder." Honor requires difficulty. Keeping this type of terror away from our own shores will be on ongoing battle requiring resources and physical courage that are not limited by our past conceptions of what defines war.
John Stuart Mill said it best. " War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

But the coverage again shifts from the weather back to another show with historical footage of an Al Qaeda attack. As photos of adults carrying dead children from yet another site of collective human failure fill the screen, I am forced to confront a harsher truth. that of all God's creatures, man can be the cruelest. Only man, blessed with the ability to reason, is capable of reasoned hate. Will Durant, the great historian, once said that, "barbarism, like the jungle, does not die out but only retreats behind the barriers that civilization has thrown up against it and waits there always to reclaim that to which civilization has temporarily laid claim." As civilized people, we can think of no cause that justifies the deliberate taking of innocent lives. But as the years pictures of attack after attack tell me that there are those that do.

As I poured a cup of tea, I searched the channel for something of a lighter mood. There was coverage on the tornadoes down in Mississippi. Watching footage of the damage reminded me that for all our advances in technology, we are still vulnerable to nature's awesome power. Having survived over 20 years in environments that were happy to kill me on a daily basis, I developed a early on respect for mother nature. As the Tao Te Ching puts it: " Heaven and earth are inhumane; they view the myriad creatures as straw dogs."
I can look out an airplane window and see the terrible power of nature, I can look on TV and see the damage that it can do. But I can also look and see something worse and even more dangerous: Man's inhumanity to man. Durant argued that, "civilization is not imperishable. It must be relearned by every generation." For that is the bleakest truth of all, the one truth we must never forget. The truth that sustains our continued efforts, be it in Iraq, In Afghanistan or in the bustle of a street on U.S. soil. The replayed image of a man holding his head in his blood soaked hands, in great pain, puts the war into my living room, as it should, lest I forget as I wing my way home.

I turned the TV off when I felt the tears well up, and quietly left my safe and warm room. I went out into the back field, remote below the lightening sky, listening to the audible celestial stillness of stars drifting past. I sat perfectly still in the quiet, watching the ink seep from the sky overhead while in the east all is blood and fiery sky.

I saw a hawk dive down black and clean as a shadow. It's wings cleaved the shimmering air and the rising air was the pristine lift that moved it forward, the perfect stream in which it swam, and dwindled and vanished, having killed not for hate or some warped ideology, but simply to eat, taking not any more than it needed. These are the days of doubts, of long dark nights, when even the devout wonder if we are keepers of more than this, if we will know safety and peace or simply inherit the wind and the dark.

Yet, knowing these "rough men" (and women, Mr. Orwell) stand ready for us, I know we have a fighting chance.

- Brigid

21 comments:

  1. Bravo, Brigid, and thank you. Simple, yet eloquent, which keeps me coming back for more. Lost a brother in Afghanistan, and I'm not sure about watching this...might hit a little too close to home right now.

    On that note, I think it's time for some Guinness Chocolate Cake! After all, Chocolate can fix anything, right? :-D

    Seriously, though, thanks again!

    Cheers from MD's Eastern Shore!

    Andy

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  2. Thank you that was so well written wish i had your skill.

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  3. Well done; nicely done. There are so many layers to what you've written here, and so many emotions stirred up by the images you've invoked. I find that, decades after leaving active duty, such scenes bring those images & emotions flooding back. They are intense and persistent, those warrior days, and are never as neatly tucked away as I keep hoping they are.

    Excellent post, my friend.

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  4. Wonderful!! Thanks!!!
    Sabanim

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  5. As you may know, Brigid, Canadians have apparently decided to bail on a combat mission in Afghanistan. We too quickly forget why we're there ... and yes, the cost ... to us ... has been high. But we went there in the first place to defeat and eliminate al-Qaeda and the Taliban in their place of residence. There ... not here in the US and Canada.

    Unfortunately, we dropped into the trap of cloaking the once straightforward mission with so-called laudable aims and objectives that relate to culture, society and western world views. And, naturally, we have absolutely no chance in h-e-double hockey sticks of remaking Afghan society into a little North America.

    Still, it allows the mushy hearted libtards that infest my land to avoid looking at, and recognizing the truth about combat and those who tread its dangerous soil.

    Your post sure make me want to see The Hurt Locker ... especially as it was directed BY A GIRL!

    Regards,
    George

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  6. The pic you posted of the sniper/spotter with the Barrett is kinda funny.

    Anyone who has ever spotted for someone shooting a Barrett gets a lot closer to the shooter, and a lot further back. The muzzle brake on the M107 (aka M82) drives sand like nobodies business to the rear obliques.

    But if you are shooting blanks it doesn't matter.

    Keep up the good work Brigid!

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  7. You have a gift Brigid. You really do.

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  8. Thanks for letting me know about this movie. We don't watch too many movies, because so many of them suck rocks. Hubby's not too keen on watching Avatar b/c it paints the military and humans as bad guys, yet again. This sounds like much more our thing. I hope you and yours are well, and I'll be thinking of you tomorrow as I have my bacon for breakfast. ;-)

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  9. Brava!!!, wonderfully done.

    (no gentleman, it's not a typo, you're all addressing Brigid as a male, which I'm pretty sure she's not :-) )

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  10. I do thank you for your thoughts and trying to understand.

    On my first tour I met the author of the movie, while he was in Baghdad with some of the EOD teams. Having watched the selective tour he was on I have not and will not watch the movie. Plus I don't want to watch a movie about Iraq. Too soon.

    Watching the news reports I often wondered if I was in the same country as the reporters and journalists. I have a feeling the movie is the same way.

    I myself find the often misquoted Edmond Burke to be closer to home, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." At least in one of the various forms.

    Read your blog every day-great stuff, I wish I could write as well as you.

    Gary

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  11. It was good - it was a movie . I wouldn't think a soldier like the lead character is the norm - I hope not. It is tough enough over there without having someone on your team looking for a rush and puting others at even more risk.

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  12. Well said...well said... As an FYI- since the Army didn't support, the weaps are not going to be right, and there were obvious continuity issues...

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  13. I don't think I can improve on any of the comments, except to second the motions. You do go so far and above being an excellent writer and puller of the heart strings. You play beautiful music on the hearts of individuals with your words. Few can do that, and even fewer do it so gently and well as you. Write on, dear Brigid, right on!

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  14. Folks, blogger comments is acting up. Some comments I could read but it wouldn't let me post or even reject them to clear the board. Some didn't show up (I knew folks sent them as they mentioned it in person) and I just got two comments for the first time on old posts, comments dated the 14th. So not sure.

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  15. Brigid, exceptionally fine writing on a difficult subject. I haven't seen the movie and probably won't, so I doubly appreciate your review. It put me in mind of a gentle British deminer I met in Scotland. His job was to clear a couple hundred thousand land mines in Bosnia. Every three months Chris came home to wife and kids who loved and admired him, as I did likewise. I helped him publish a book of poetry that he wrote about his experiences.

    Sorry to drivel on, but Chris was an important figure in my life, the first to read Mars in draft manuscript. He called me on a satellite phone from Bosnia to say how much he liked it. I could hardly speak in reply, knowing that he was risking his life and I was safe and sound, wrapped in foolproof civilian life.

    My remarks seem especially effete and unimportant to my own ears now. Yours cut right to the bone, and I'm honest enough to say you have tremendous powers I can only admire from afar.

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  16. I very rarely watch what passes through the bowels of Hollywood marketed as war movies these days. Perhaps I'll have to make an exception for this one.

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  17. found on a financial blog:

    "I know this is a little late in the game, but I must echo Mr. Shaefer's rebuke of American in Paris' assertion that "Your country is a lost cause." I've had an opportunity to spend some 1-on-1 time with several hundred US military veterans in the last year, perhaps twice or three times as many from the Vietnam era as from the Gulf Wars. I have come away from my time with those veterans speechless, humbled, shocked, and impressed by the qualities they invariably display: strength of character; loyalty to their comrades and their country; commitment to their families and communities; fundamental decency. Nobody who watches TV or reads media releases would guess it, but the men and women of our country are cut from the very finest cloth in the world, going about their business every day with modesty and humility, neither expecting nor asking for a handout, and warmed to their very core when somebody stops to offer them a quiet 'thank you for your service.' I can even say that I've met homeless veterans who display these same qualities, though I am outraged that a single one of them is cold, hungry, wet or alone in the dark tonight.

    "These men and women ARE OUR COUNTRY. The country is not its government, or its businesses. Our country is nothing more nor less than its citizens. And I know, now, in my heart, that these men and women are anything but a lost cause. They are utterly reliable, the strong backbone of our nation, and we can trust them with our future because if the government failed tomorrow and the banks failed tomorrow they would still be there, ready to pitch in and do whatever they could to help out. And, if it came down to crunch time, they would face death for their homes and their families if they thought it would help."

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  18. Hurt Locker just had too many tactical errors for me to take it seriously. I'm surprised it won any awards frankly. And, the only reason it did is due to the ignorance of the award granters of all things military and that go bang or boom.

    Paladin

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