The Hurt Locker isn’t about the Iraq war. It isn’t about disarming bombs. It is about Americans being in Iraq. It is about a squad tasked with disarming bombs. But it isn’t a movie you can just slide into a slot and then walk away from. More importantly, this movie is about being a jerk, about being a self-obsessed human being, about rejecting the notions of a regular life and instead lusting for a life where, at any minute, you may die. It is about Sergeant Will James and the people that are abused because of his need for that thrill. And, surprisingly, I do think it deserved the Oscar for Best Picture. I know. It shocked me too.
The reason why it is so important to talk about what the Hurt Locker isn’t is so that we can re-enforce what it is. It is a great story. It has a problem (Being in Iraq) and it has a main character that has to deal with the problem (Will James, played by and impossibly good Jeremy Renner). It deals with this problem, however, in a way that isn’t boring, overused, or stale. The movie doesn’t say stupid political stuff like, “This war is bad.” We can see that, and the movie is smart in that it never talks about politics. It avoids politics. It doesn’t focus on the war, which is valid. But we have no idea what the movie thinks about the politics. And the main character? Will James? He is an awful human being. He is complicated and weird and crazy. He risks his team members lives when he tries and disarms bombs he doesn’t have to. He risks his own life when he disarms bombs he doesn’t need to. As a fiction writer, I appreciate him. Humans are complex, and they make stupid, complex decisions. That is why the ending is so powerful. He rejects all the cereal in the cereal aisle. He rejects his wife that barely knows him. He even rejects his own child. He rejects all that for the thrill to do something that no one cares about, that no one will ever really remember him for. No one will mourn him much when he is dead, and he could care less. He is an addict looking for his next score. That’s why this is probably one of the best movies I’ve seen in the last few years.