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Preliminary Paper Proposal

At a particularly suspenseful moment in Kathryn Bigelow’s 2009 The Hurt Locker, Jeremy Renner’s Sergeant First Class William James confronts an Iraqi man in a car at gunpoint. The Iraqi has crossed an American-guarded road block and driven into an area James’ EOD team has blocked off to investigate a possible bomb. The Iraqi’s motives are unclear, and as James stares him down amid cries of his comrades just to shoot, the film refuses to offer any easy explanation for the confrontation or any exit strategy. The game of chicken ends with the Iraqi man flinching first, rewarding James’ machismo and restraint. The moment seemingly vindicates the Rumsfeldian neo-con policy of intervention: to win the War on Terrorism, America needs to do little more than get in the face of the Muslim world and America’s firepower, resolve and sheer testicular fortitude will send the cowardly Islamo-fascist into retreat. The scene ends in a Bush-ian resolution: the Muslim, innocent or not, is led off in cuffs to destinations unknown, guilty, perhaps, of nothing more than being on the wrong side of language and cultural barriers.

But Bigelow’s film reuses such an easy view of the Iraq War, and in a later (again impossibly tense) scene, James tries to extract a helpless Iraqi man from a steel cage before a bomb attached to him explodes. The self-sacrificing American Sergeant ignores the danger he could face to himself and calls for lock cutters to break through the Iraqi Gordian Knot as he tries to save the Iraqi. For the first time, James fails, and he apologizes to the desperate, doomed man before he abandons him for his own safety. James’ agency and calm demeanor deteriorate into impotence and panic. As American hubris confronts an impossibly complex problem, victory becomes temporary at best, impossible at worst.

The Hurt Locker stands as the first Hollywood film that offers a credible approach towards telling the story of the Iraq war. In my paper, I’ll look to explore how Bigelow has played with conventions of the war genre, particularly themes of masculinity, coming-of-age and the divisions between both the enemy and the ally and the home front and the battle field to create a text that has allowed Hollywood, a mere six years into the conflict, its first lesson in how to speak Iraq.

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  1. No Friends Depressed on Tuesday, November 3, 2015 at 1:28 am

    No Friends Depressed

    … – I particularly appreciate the way in which symptoms typically start during the therapy to succeed. A sales manager for youth villages crisis hotline sassoon no friends depressed… Matt's Film Theory Blog › Preliminary Paper Proposal …

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