"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." -
I was quite pleased to see that The Hurt Locker won Best Picture and Director over Dances with Smurfs, er, I mean Avatar. Avatar was a visual feast with a somewhat weak story I heard, but The Hurt Locker is all around an incredible movie, one that should have had a lot more attention when it was in the theaters.
For a woman of words, there are few that describe this film well. Taut, incredibly intelligent, going somewhere deep in the heart of the psyche, a place some people really don't want to go. Some will view it and not pick up all the noise going on, there in the silence, or the silence there in all the noise, but it was there and deeply felt. I don't say this often but it was film that literally took my breath away.
The main character, James, appears on the surface to be a one dimensional cowboy, find the explosive, break the rules, disarm it, yet he remained to the very end, endlessly enigmatic for the illusory contradictions that perpetually fray his very being. The others, contradictions perhaps, yet not, with an adherence to structured direction and a guarded camaraderie so steadfast as to be almost baseless. I found the film psychologically astute for I've seen some of the personalities, working along side of them in the field, and now at home, many transitioning back to jobs stateside. These are the individuals who lived such days.
I read reviewers that seemed to dislike the movie because of their personal feelings about the war. There were others that said "wooden characters". Flawed? Yes, Wooden? No. Those that say such things are people that obviously have lived life in the safe little aquarium of kum ba ya land.
But I'm not above picking apart any film. Certainly parts of me looked at it closely. Let's just say I know a fair bit about explosives (from the good guy perspective) . And of course, there were some deep inaccuracies there, but not so the layman would notice. I'm not shy about critiquing the technical aspects of movie as it's watched, even if sometimes only Barkley listens.
Of course there are the guns. I notice those gaffes as well. Sure there were a few technical "huh's?", but overall I would not fault the film for that. Likely bringing in weapons for filming was a challenge to say the least. But I noticed a few familiar faces. A Beretta 92 (distinguished by a rounded trigger guard and butt-mounted magazine release) which later somehow changes to a Beretta 92 FS.
A Glock 19 (carried by the "on screen too quickly" Ralph Fiennes).
An M4A1 Carbine (oldie but goodie) but hey, wasn't there was a buttstock exchange between the 3rd and 4th generation stocks in the same scenes and in one scene an ACOG scope was briefly replaced by a red dot sight, before switching back. I think I saw an M16A4 (but those might have been airsoft replicas) .Then, a great sequence with a sand blasted Barret M107 (below with the main character spotting). In that scene you saw how really difficult it is to sight and kill a target operating behind and around cover. (Though I think the 50 cal bullets from the M107 would have cut through that mud hut like butter). A contractor's weapon in the movie, used after an ambush, you get a good look at. It's a weapon that can be used to detonate IED's as an anti material rifle so it made sense to me anyway, that the characters picked it up and used it to their best advantage.
Then, of course the AKM rifles, carried by both insurgents and the Iraqi National Guard. There was an FPK/PSL sniper rifle. an M2HB mounted on an Army Humvee and a host of things this gal isn't trained enough to recognize at one viewing. But still, a great view of equipment in action and handled well by the actors.
But all the gear wasn't wasn't what made this a "must see" movie, for me anyway. It was the psychological experience of being there with soldiers, good and not so good, brothers and enemies under the harsh sun. What made this film was not the technical aspects you could pick apart, but the real look into the adrenalin rushed, agonizingly difficult life of a soldier in a combat zone. It put a face on so many who really do not get the recognition for their service they deserve. There were a couple of scenes that really stood out for me, one in which James has a metal box of bits of the bombs he's diffused - "things that almost killed me".
His comrades are looking at it and one pulls out a wedding ring on a chain and queries why that is in there. James says "like I said, things that almost killed me."
Too often we forget that the people fighting overseas are more than soldiers. Flawed or perfect, they're still husbands, they're wives, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. Those we know and love, far from home.
Safe in our own world, we too easily forget the dangers these courageous souls face each day. We turn on the news and see news of an attack, another roadside bomb, another suicide bomber.I recalled another attack, this one hitting close to home. The massacre at the Radisson at Amman, Jordan, where I had just stayed just days prior, my survival not a matter of my fundamental beliefs, just timing.
Yet I almost hate to turn on some channels to only see another liberal diatribe against the war on terror. I agree with James Pavitt "The terrorist organizations are penetrable. I want every one of those SOBs looking over their shoulder." Honor requires difficulty. Keeping this type of terror away from our own shores will be on ongoing battle requiring resources and physical courage that are not limited by our past conceptions of what defines war.
John Stuart Mill said it best. " War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
But the coverage again shifts from the weather back to another show with historical footage of an Al Qaeda attack. As photos of adults carrying dead children from yet another site of collective human failure fill the screen, I am forced to confront a harsher truth. that of all God's creatures, man can be the cruelest. Only man, blessed with the ability to reason, is capable of reasoned hate. Will Durant, the great historian, once said that, "barbarism, like the jungle, does not die out but only retreats behind the barriers that civilization has thrown up against it and waits there always to reclaim that to which civilization has temporarily laid claim." As civilized people, we can think of no cause that justifies the deliberate taking of innocent lives. But as the years pictures of attack after attack tell me that there are those that do.
As I poured a cup of tea, I searched the channel for something of a lighter mood. There was coverage on the tornadoes down in Mississippi. Watching footage of the damage reminded me that for all our advances in technology, we are still vulnerable to nature's awesome power. Having survived over 20 years in environments that were happy to kill me on a daily basis, I developed a early on respect for mother nature. As the Tao Te Ching puts it: " Heaven and earth are inhumane; they view the myriad creatures as straw dogs."
I can look out an airplane window and see the terrible power of nature, I can look on TV and see the damage that it can do. But I can also look and see something worse and even more dangerous: Man's inhumanity to man. Durant argued that, "civilization is not imperishable. It must be relearned by every generation." For that is the bleakest truth of all, the one truth we must never forget. The truth that sustains our continued efforts, be it in Iraq, In Afghanistan or in the bustle of a street on U.S. soil. The replayed image of a man holding his head in his blood soaked hands, in great pain, puts the war into my living room, as it should, lest I forget as I wing my way home.
I turned the TV off when I felt the tears well up, and quietly left my safe and warm room. I went out into the back field, remote below the lightening sky, listening to the audible celestial stillness of stars drifting past. I sat perfectly still in the quiet, watching the ink seep from the sky overhead while in the east all is blood and fiery sky.
I saw a hawk dive down black and clean as a shadow. It's wings cleaved the shimmering air and the rising air was the pristine lift that moved it forward, the perfect stream in which it swam, and dwindled and vanished, having killed not for hate or some warped ideology, but simply to eat, taking not any more than it needed. These are the days of doubts, of long dark nights, when even the devout wonder if we are keepers of more than this, if we will know safety and peace or simply inherit the wind and the dark.
Yet, knowing these "rough men" (and women, Mr. Orwell) stand ready for us, I know we have a fighting chance.