The Hurt Locker: Gritty, sure. But realistic?

Posted by RDN under Military Covenant / On movies on 8 March 2010

The courage of EOD – bomb disposal – staff is well worth celebrating and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker does it brilliantly. Still, this is perhaps not all that accurate an account of the trade.

EOD people work to save lives by outwitting the best efforts of bomb-makers to make tamper-proof devices. By chance I’ve met a few of these people and came to the conclusion that it is very hard indeed to know what makes them tick (so to speak). I am pretty sure that Staff Sergeant James, our hero, is beyond atypical.

I suppose it is just possible that an eccentric EOD person might, on his first day in-theatre, strut off down a street toward a job, putting himself and – what is worse, his team – at hugely unnecessary danger. Rightly, his number two, Sergeant Sanborn, smacked him for that. James’s behaviour is all the more incomprehensible granted that he is a father.

It seems extraordinarily unlikely that James, shortly afterward, would take off alone into the back streets of Baghdad in pursuit of the people who’d murdered a young boy he’d become fond of. Or was he trying to find the family of the boy?

And would he really for reasons of vanity have put his whole team at extreme risk whilst he defuses a car bomb which could just as easily have been blown-up conventionally?

But the last and greatest oddity came when James heads off into the unlit backstreets, with his unwilling little team, to seek out some bombers. This was plain madness and if he’d insisted on doing it, I imagine that his team would have waved him off and good riddance.

I don’t know how unlikely it is that James and Sanborn and one other soldier would be wandering around in the desert in their Humvee, unescorted, and come across a raiding party of Brit privateers replete with human bounty and a flat tyre. The Brits sneer at the Yanks, because that’s what uppity Brits do in Hollywood movies, and a gun battle unfolds in which the Brits get their come-uppance.

In another necessary Hollywood trope, Sanborn – black, lovely, steady, funny, redemptive – gets to be the sniper hero with James as his spotter. It is a great scene, beautifully done.

This is a wonderful film and it has a stillness at its heart which is surprising granted the ferocity of much it depicts.

2 comments

  • Written by Tony on 13/01/11 at 10:49 pm:

    Very good review and very accurate in its description. IMHO and my own experience this man would never have got past the first interview as an ATO as they are quite keen on excluding suicidal adrenalin junkies

  • Written by Gordon on 27/10/11 at 11:19 am:

    The Hurt Locker is a stupid film.

    The character ‘William James’ is cliché. He is a bad ass, chain smoking maverick – Americans love this because they value individualism. However in real life disobeying orders and endangering your colleges would get you kicked out of the army.

    Not that it matters to Americans, [RDN edited out some common abuse here].

Comment

This post's tags

Comments

Share this post

Keep track of it

Related pages

RDN books on Amazon