"Hurt Locker...Hurting For Accuracy"
Now I feel bad for liking it.
The Oscar-nominated film "Hurt Locker" is among this year's best picture contenders but it got skewered in a recent Washington Post column.
Even NBC's Brian Williams is taking shots at the story about an Iraq war bomb squad. The anchor, who's been in-country a bunch of times, blogged that "the movie's positive reviews could not have been 'written by anyone who had spent any time with U.S. armed forces in Iraq" he wrote, wondering why none of the soldiers in the movie dipped smokeless tobacco or said 'hoo-ah' -- "the universal term for hello, goodbye, understood, etc.'"
The Post says, "Many in the military say "Hurt Locker" is plagued by unforgivable inaccuracies that make the most critically acclaimed Iraq war film to date more a Hollywood fantasy than the searingly realistic rendition that civilians take it for. "
Even though the story isn't based on a real-life incident, a self-identified Army Airborne Ranger is quoted by the Post on Facebook as saying, "This movie is not based on a true story, but on a true war, a war in which I have seen my friends killed, a war in which I witnessed my ranger buddy get both his legs blown off. So for Hollywood to glorify this crap is a huge slap in the face to every soldier who's been on the front line."
A former sergeant who served in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 tells the Post he kept hoping that the movie's renegade main character would get "blown up throughout the entire movie. I wanted to see his poor teammates get another team leader, who was actually concerned about their safety."
The film's screenwriter, Mark Boal, was embedded in Iraq with an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team six years ago and tells the paper he feels a duty to "hew as close as possible to the truth."
So why the character flaws and continuity errors (like the fact that the uniforms in the film don't match the time frame)?
Boal told the Post he needed artistic license to tell a compelling and true story. As for the uni's, he says he wanted his audience to relate to the imagery they see on the news. "I definitely tried for dramatic effect to make artistic choices, but I hope I made them respectfully and carefully and with the goal of not making a training video or a documentary, but showing just how hellish this war is," he says. "I was also aware, by the way, that there are many wonderful documentaries on Iraq and many wonderful articles, which no one has seen. And quite frankly, I was hoping that people would see the film."
Not all vets are hatin', though. The Post found one who thinks"many veterans of bomb disposal units love the movie. James O'Neil is executive director of the EOD Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit that has benefited financially from the film and says, 'there's a lot of good representation of the intensity and the courage that's displayed by EOD techs. What it takes to find, identify and then render safe those [bombs] -- that's a story, and it's an incredible story.'"
I haven't been to Iraq and never neutered an IED, but I liked "Hurt Locker" and thought it put a face on the men and women doing unspeakably tough things in unbelievably hostile conditions. I'd also like to think most people are smart enough to know the difference between a Hollywood story and a CNN documentary. I'm guessing vets who've been there probably feel the way cops do when asked about "Law and Order", or when firefighters get asked for their take on "Rescue Me." We in radio bristle when people make cracks about "WKRP In Cincinnati"--sure, the stories were close to true but the actual nuts and bolts of the business were poorly represented.
Do you want a good story that makes a point, or do you want a cinematically articulate representation of a real-life event? If you're studying history, you seek the last. If you're selling tickets, or trying to win an Oscar, you go for the first.