We made it a point to see all of the movies nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards for the year 2009. This year, maybe because there were ten, rather than five, finalists, we saw virtually none of them. Of course, “The Hurt Locker” was the winner, and last night we saw it.
Our neighborhood non-profit theater, the Avalon, is having an Oscar Week this week. I have not paid a lot of attention to see what films they are showing, but one of them was “The Hurt Locker” and, surprisingly, the normal ticket prices were cut in half, so I got to see the film for $3.50. The opposite of sticker shock.
It’s quite a film, for those of you who have not seen it. And, according to Wikipedia, it was the lowest grossing film ever to win the Best Picture award, so I assume that most of you haven’t seen it. Last night, by the way, there were a grand total of 7 people in the theater. And it’s a large theater that draws fairly large audiences for films of all varieties.
Filmed in Jordan, and set in Iraq, it is the story of three non-commissioned officers who form an I.E.D. demolition team, called in when an improvised explosive device is stumbled upon (sometimes literally), or feared to exist, or when a potential suicide bomber or suspicious automobile appears, the team is called in to determine what is there and, if an I.E.D. is found, to dismember it (as well as clear and patrol the area).
This is very dangerous, and tension-provoking work, to be sure, and it takes its toll on the three, very different soldiers, and their relationship with each other.
The movie has a very authentic feel, and makes you wonder: is this what it would really be like? The critics have almost uniformly praised its authenticity, and former soldiers who have played this role in reality have tended so say: “you gotta be kidding. it was not like this at all.”
So, we are left to ponder reality (happily, for most of us, from afar), but to be very impressed with the acting, the directing, the cinematography, and the overall movie.
Is the movie fun to watch? Of course not, and while I was sitting there, completely engrossed, not missing any part of the action or story line, wondering what was going to happen next, I also was longing for the film to end, so I could get out of the dessert and away from this senseless war.
And, it must be said, that the film does not provide context for the war. There is nothing political about it. The job of the central characters is to clear I.E.D’s. Its not to fight a war, or to win a war, and there is nothing that gives any hint of whether or not this is a good war, or a winnable one. In the case of “The Hurt Locker”, I think this was the right way to frame this story.