My generation grew up with Great War movies. We had the perfect war hero to lead us; John Wayne. Movies such as The Sands of Iwo Jima, The Flying Leathernecks, The Fighting Seabees, and of course the Green Berets which was his only entry into the Vietnam era were all great movies despite the fact that they cast an unreal shadow over what war was really all about. His do or die determination of no questions asked, never doubt what the generals want you to do, and understand three things always; # 1 you would succeed. # 2 you would do whatever with honor and the best part # 3 you had no doubts that what you were doing was the right thing.
Seldom did you ever see anyone come home from battle maimed, disgruntled, mentally scared, wounded and determined to raise protests against the war. Cinema throughout the fifties and even into the sixties was far enough away from the actual war that telling stories in generalities was okay by then. This is not necessarily something movie makers can get away with today.
Thus when the movie, “Hurt Locker,” took best picture of the year this past week one thinks America might have turned the corner regarding the current bill of fare of war movies. Other than movies such as Blackhawk Down, most recent movies associated with the current wars have showed poorly at the box office. It seems that our efforts to bring democracy, or at least what can best be defined as new police states with voter involvement to life, have failed to garner the attention of even those who like to watch war movies. Americans apparently are getting enough war on their televisions with the nightly news. Who wants to pay nine-fifty for more?
Well, maybe not anymore. Maybe just maybe a movie with a good story has a chance. This one, in a convoluted twist, has hit a nerve. Not going to spoil the plot for you but suffice to say, boy goes to war, does important adrenaline producing job, comes home, can’t cope, and goes back to war. It didn’t play that well at the box office at first but for those who saw it, there was no other choice for best movie of the year. A good story beats even the rawest of nerves and the academy rewarded it. Granted the competition left a lot to be desired and just about all of this year’s offerings were riding in the prop-wash of Avatar, the hands on favorite to win a lot of awards. Surprise, it only won two!
But I digress. Now that the “Hurt Locker,” has won, it for sure will be re-released and a fresh group of people will go off to see it. The movie focuses more on the bravado and actions between the men than it does at attempting to take a pro or anti war side. A war movie about the job these soldiers do. And therein lies the success of the film. Focusing on a group of soldiers who defuse bombs, this movie is an adrenalin builder from the word go. “The Hurt Locker” opens with a quote from a former war correspondent Chris Hedges, simply stating that “war is a drug,” and you quickly see how that can become so.
So for those of you who remember John Wayne leading us up the hills of all those South Pacific Islands, take you seats and remember this is not a joy ride which we seem to see in so may films of war these days. No fancy nicknames of characters shooting off carriers with hot shot egos, determined to show the world how tuff they are. This is a movie about doing a job in a war that you can only get by volunteering and that in itself is reason enough to go see it. I mean after all, who volunteers when at war?