Commentary: 'The Hurt Locker,' a show and tell of an EOD Soldier's experiences
July 28, 2009
"The Hurt Locker" is a film based on U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams stationed in Baghdad, Iraq, early in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The story focuses on an EOD Team Leader, Sgt. 1st Class William James, when he replaces a fallen comrade on the last leg of a one-year tour.
James' cavalier, somewhat dangerous style, is difficult on his already shaken team members. "The Hurt Locker" details their last few weeks in theater.
Author Mark Boal did a decent job of capturing the touch and feel of Iraq as it was for me in 2003. This is not surprising since he spent several weeks embedded with U.S. Army EOD during a 2004 deployment.
James was significantly over the top, and I have the impression that he was a conglomeration of personal quirks from multiple Soldiers.
The actions of the EOD team seemed heroic, risking their lives to remove explosive devices, but are actually the unnecessary risks of an adrenaline junkie.
In one instance James approaches a suspect vehicle wearing an EOD bomb suit. Upon discovering the 20-odd 155mm projectiles loaded into the trunk, he throws his suit to the ground muttering, "If I am going to die, I am going to die comfortable." While the bomb suit will not protect a person from such a massive blast at ground zero, the blast danger drops significantly with every step away. At short distances, the bomb suit can make the difference between life and death.
Personally, I would remove a Soldier like James from military service at the earliest possibility.
EOD is successful because we base our actions on safety, taking risks only when absolutely necessary. Pulling projectiles out of the ground by a knot of detonation cord, as James did, may have looked like an expedient solution, but it's a really good way to kill yourself, your team and innocent civilians.
James is not the type of Soldier that we would want in any EOD formation. It is far better to be safe than lucky.
The film did well at avoiding the political side of Iraq and focusing on the journey of EOD Soldiers.
There were times that I could put names on the personalities being portrayed. However, I was a little put off by the rampant display of post traumatic stress disorder. Every character, including James' wife, was displaying severe PTSD.
While PTSD is a concern, not all Soldiers experience or display symptoms of it in such clarity. The movie gave the impression that everyone who had deployed was "damaged goods."
All in all, I enjoyed the film. It was intense action - over the top at times - and maintained my interest up until the disconnected ending.