The Hurt Locker: Ouch

I’ll be watching the Oscars on Sunday night, though this year, I am not as excited as I usually am. I’ve only seen two of the movies nominated for best picture: Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker.

The former is an entertaining movie even though George Clooney is George Clooney solely because he looks like George Clooney and not because of any Oscar-worthy talent.

The latter had the makings of a great movie, but the director lost me on the very first scene when the words “Baghdad 2004” flashed on screen and American soldiers were seen wearing the digital green combat uniforms. Those uniforms, of course, were not issued until May 2005. I know this because I was embedded with the 48th Infantry Brigade, the first unit to receive the re-engineered fatigues.

The camera panned wide to show a neighborhood in Baghdad that I instantly recognized as Amman, Jordan. There are no rolling hills in the Iraqi capital.

From there, other inaccuracies skewed my judgment of good filmmaking. I thought director Kathryn Bigelow perfectly captured the tension and adrenaline rush that goes with war, specifically with the job of a bomb detection specialist. But the lead character, played by Jeremy Renner, is too much of a cowboy. There’s no way an EOD team leader would be able to run through the streets of Baghdad in a t-shirt and cammos and make it back to the gates of Camp Liberty and be allowed in without stern questioning and punishment. There’s no way, a lone Humvee would leave the gates without a convoy and find itself way out in the Iraqi desert in a showdown with snipers.

My soldier friends agree with me that The Hurt Locker is rife with errors. So do a lot of EOD veterans who have been interviewed by various media outlets including my own, CNN.

I realize that the movie is a work of fiction. But the Iraq war is so fresh that I felt the film lost credibility by not getting things right. It wouldn’t have taken much to correct those errors.

So while The Hurt Locker beautifully captures the addiction to war and what happens to soldiers who return to lives that seem mundane, the movie missed the mark with me.

I cannot hope that it trumps its contenders Sunday night. For the sake of truth. That’s just the journalist in me, I suppose.

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