Saturday, March 13, 2010

Robert Becker: Best Picture No Shill for War Hubris, Invasion or Empire - Robert Scheer Better at Politics than Film Criticism

(Courtesy of Danny Mayer)

Best Picture No Shill for War Hubris, Invasion or Empire - Robert Scheer Better at Politics than Film Criticism
by Robert Becker
The Smirking Chimp


What's brilliant about "Hurt Locker" is not just its compelling take on damaged soldiers but the enticing ambiguities, making it a telling Rorschach test. The director endorses bravery but not the mission, thus deflecting nonsense she's just a white-flag-waving traitor. U.S. Army advisers withdrew because Bigelow didn't appear pro-war enough. The director knew better, that audiences would be less engaged in experiencing the front lines when political lines in the sand are drawn (either gung ho or Scheer's).

Notably, on screen, this disposal team saves no lives or assures no American safety. Sustained, high tension makes the opposite point: no one here is safe, victory is an illusion, and justification for the occupation, AWOL. Sometimes what's not said or dramatized matters more than what so immediate, however well crafted.

My personal take: the movie presents menacing patterns of randomized violence. Dramatizing the life-long trauma of soldiers we fund, without redemptive trade-offs, questions militarized violence as solution. War here is mania, whether personal and/or political addiction, and that makes the movie qualify as both anti-war and anti-Iraq. Its opening moment quotes strident anti-war critic, Chris Hedges, on war as addiction (vs. honor), and the movie follows through with this dark view.

First hand, we experience unspeakable pain endured by sympathetic characters with little to show for it. The protagonist is brave but also an obsessed daredevil, dangerous to himself and his crew - no hero for our children or his, no exemplar for the glory of Yankee war-making. The one visible Army officer conspicuously rags on James' recklessness - without narrative offset. While Bigelow doesn't flesh in background Iraqis, nor does she detail Americans, except our team and one psychologist, foolishly getting himself blown up. Another non-hero. Yes, the movie presents Iraq as American-instigated dogfight, but neither side is honored, neither murderous insurgents, nor the more powerful, hubristic, occupying Americans.

Any Hollywood war movie not glorifying noble Americans in justified armed combat against a dastardly enemy is exceptional. If "Hurt Locker" was intended to promote positives about Iraq, count it an utter failure, from first to last scene. The movie's finale provides the simplest "statement" -- reinforcing Iraq as an endless, addictive drug for a crisis junkie doomed to tempt death, incapable of living with his own family in his home country. Imperial triumph, indeed.

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