The Hurt Locker, the widely praised movie about American soldiers on a bomb squad in Iraq, has arrived in theaters with enough rave reviews to fill two dozen quote ads. While the film is excellent in some respects, its politics are worrisome not because they're wrong, but because there are no politics in a film about the most politically fraught conflict in recent memory. And the eagerness of critics to overlook or excuse this bothers me just as much.Kathryn Bigelow's film is indeed well-executed but is rigorously -- even perversely -- uninterested in the Iraqi point of view. Who plants these bombs? Why? What dangers do they face? Is every Iraqi man, woman and child seen as a potential threat?
Bigelow and writer Mark Boal clearly want to convey the jittery experience rather than worry too much about context, and I recognise that they are putting us directly inside the trigger-happy, over-wired mindset of the American soldier, but it would have been useful if they could have found some perspective on that mindset other than simply punishing the characters who aren't brutalised enough to share it (Eldridge and Cambridge). Put me down as one of those -- with this guy and this guy -- whose says an Avatar win in the big categories at the Oscars would have been a more daring anti-war statement than the surprising -- or was it, really? -- success of this film.