The (anti-)political machinations of The Hurt Locker

Our field of vision is so completely limited to his expertise in defusing bombs and dealing with invisible enemies that our capacity to think about the larger context of the American presence in Iraq is replaced by nuance-free instincts more characteristic of the tea party movement. This is likely to distance us from this man sufficiently to criticize him, how?

It is in this paragraph, excerpted from “Kathryn Bigelow: Feminist pioneer or tough guy in drag?” by Martha P. Nochimson in Salon, that the author displays, perhaps even unwittingly, that she was so drawn into the film emotionally that she could not find wiggle room in which to, as she puts it, “criticize” the actions of the protagonist.

In my mind, we shouldn’t be asking the film to place us at a distance from its characters, and we certainly should expect it to comment on the “larger context of the American presence in Iraq” simply by virtue of it being a film about an ongoing conflict.

The Hurt Locker is primarily an action film—a visceral, engaging spectacular, actually—it is not a political commentary, and it certainly does not pretend to have aspirations of being a true document of real experience. We shouldn’t expect it to be anything more than entertaining, even though, in this writer’s opinion, it at the very least questions the (detrimental) emotional and physical effects of war on soldiers, offering in the process a social commentary that, in the hands of lesser filmmakers, would probably not have emerged. Furthermore, the film does posit questions about how and why America is flexing its military muscle in the Middle East—albeit indirectly and outwith the diegesis.

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