In the main characters in the one-hundred-thirty-minutes journey

In an era of the Internet, in the age of sound bites, and in the
world of texts that collapse the meaning of words into a single letter
or two; where the bombardment of information ceaselessly flows, the
ability to analyze, synthesize, and correctly processing information
becomes ever more crucially important.  How does one begin, for example,
to assess what does it all mean when two billion people worldwide were
expected to watch the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton
in 2011. Before one could even absorb, assess, and analyze such a
phenomenon, there comes the death of Osama bin Laden, by his own
admission, the mastermind of 9/11 attacks that forever changed the way
Americans live their lives. Those images of the two passenger planes
flying into the twin towers in New York City are emblazoned in our
collective memory just as are the three thousand innocent people who
perished in the attack. Optics and their mosaic offshoots such as
documentaries and films will play a central role – now more than ever –
in an attempt to give viewers a comprehensive picture of events.
The Hurt Locker was released in 2009 but I happened to watch it in 2011 when the two above events were taking place. At any rate, The Hurt Locker is
such an important film whose director, Kathryn Bigelow, explosively
plays with the optical illusion so effectively that a viewer can’t help
but stay on the edge of one’s seat. The weaving of this mosaic story is
about three soldiers whose job it is to detonate and defuse bombs that
were planted by the insurgents during the war in Iraq – at the height of
the insurgency, in 2004. This article will examine the emblazoning of
the words of “WAR IS DRUG” that one sees at the start of the movie. The
metaphor of war as a drug just does not hold because it works against
the going theme in the movie of emotional connections, of
professionalism, and of the caring nature that the three soldiers
exhibit toward one another and to the civilian population of Iraq.
A good flick can immerse a viewer in the entanglements of the main
characters in the one-hundred-thirty-minutes journey of the viewing
experience. Through the three professional soldiers in the Explosive
Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit, “The Hurt Locker” locks the
three main characters by giving the viewer the raw emotions,
trepidations, and the taunts of war as they go about doing the dangerous
job of defusing or detonating the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
The first such attempt at detonation ends up blowing the team leader
named Thompson because of the indecisiveness of one of the three members
of the team. Had Eldridge acted decisively and shot the insurgent he
would have saved Thompson. Through the first IED that went awry a viewer
begins to see Eldridge’s subsequent indecisive actions and the
psychological problems he seems to be exhibiting for which he receives
help from a trained soldier named Cambridge. This is most certainly not a
case of a psychedelic hit of LSD. The Eldridge’s case is one of
disorientation due to the horrors of war. Therefore, it can hardly fit
the “war is drug” metaphor.
The second team member is Sanborn, a professional soldier who wants
to do his job and return home alive. The death of Thompson rattles some
of Sanborn’s nerves but maintains his levelheaded persona until the new
team leader’s arrival; James is dispatched to replace the deceased
Thompson. On the first job to defuse/detonate James clearly wants to
establish that he is the leader and Sanborn will have to learn to
respect that. In such an effort, James chooses to do his job with his
own hands and heeds no ears to Sanborn’s suggestion of using the
remote-controlled device that could possibly accomplish the task. The
frustrating alliance between the two soldiers begins in earnest. After
two successive and successful defusing of bombs, Sanborn and James begin
to develop emotional connections to one another. After one particular,
intense bomb defusing experience the three soldiers are shown to have
alcohol drinks with James and Sanborn playing kickboxing each other
while Eldridge serves as the referee. Finally, the game begins to reach a
climax when James pummels Sanborn and acts like he is riding a wild
horse in a “horse-playing” manner with James’s crotch right on the face
of Sanborn. Sanborn manages to whip out a knife pointing it right at
James’s neck while James is still on top of Sanborn. A viewer is caught
in a state of intense curiosity whether the scene is going to climax in
“Broke Mountain” moment or “Make My Day?” The game, however,
subsided and James eased away from Sanborn’s face, immediately
thereafter, James and Eldridge are seen assisting Sanborn by safely
delivering him to his room due to his drunken stupor, he could hardly
walk without wobbling. This was an act of camaraderie among soldiers
that cared about each other. The complexity of war is encapsulated in
this one scene. No matter how out of hand things might seem, soldiers
took care of one another. This act of caring amongst the three soldiers
goes against all sensibilities of calling “war is drug.”
Leadership sometimes requires that a team leader sets boundaries by
upping the ante so that credibility is established. James’s character is
shown as someone who can go beyond the call of duty when necessary to
accomplish the task. Prima facie, it may appear to James’s partners,
Eldridge and Sanborn, whom they refer James as “rowdy” and “reckless”
respectively. However, James’s decisiveness is one of the hallmark
characteristics that keeps him emotionally sound and physically
unscathed. For example, James leads Sanborn and Eldridge into an intense
firefight after a bomb was detonated by insurgents; the team could not
find any traces of suicide bomber. Sanborn clearly wants to leave the
scene implying that their job was to detonate/defuse and not go after
phantom insurgents who may be lurking in the dark alleys of Baghdad.
James, however, reasons by stating that he was not going to let anybody
laugh at them in the dark alley while they capitulate to the lame
excuses of attributing the bombing to suicide bomber when there is no
solid evidence. Thus, James authorizes that they go after the insurgents
and fight, for he wants to eliminate the insurgency at every possible
opportunity. Now, this brave and bold initiative may not be what other
soldiers in James’s position would do. One can hardly attribute this
beyond the call of duty action, however, to anything resembling of a
junky in the need for a fix. Leadership, team spirit, and
good-naturedness need not be defined in a commonly inferred normal
circumstance. Extraordinary circumstances call for unique perspectives
that defy the normal circumstance definitions and metaphors. As a team
leader, James’s character shows several initiatives in which not only he
risks his life but those who are in his team. One example will suffice
for illustration. James as a leader readily responded to the request of
helping hand to the strangers who were stranded with a flat tire in the
desert. The simple gesture of kindness ends in a long drawn out sniper
shootout – that’s what happens in a war zone. An unexpected turn of
events could turn a simple gesture of kindness into a dangerously close
call of death.
The fast-moving information age, where news vis-à-vis images, sound
bites, and texts can prevent someone from making accurate assessments
because of their rapid nature of dislodging information. Movies and
documentaries must be given ample room to bring forth stories that allow
for comprehensive assessments. In the movie, “The Hurt Locker,”
Director Kathryn Bigelow brings a fresh perspective on war and its
consequences through the three characters that embodied the gamut in
psychological terms. In Eldridge, a viewer sees a young man who is
perturbed by the deaths of fellow soldiers to some of whom he feels
responsible for their demise. In Sanborn, one sees an epitome of a
professional soldier who does not want to commit himself anything beyond
the call of duty but shows respect to authority and delivers when asked
by his team leader such as James. In James, a viewer sees a young man
who understands his job well; that his job of detonation and/or defusing
bombs means that he can perish in a split of a second. This kind of
highly dangerous post requires a psychological makeup that is
diametrically opposite from the normal circumstances, thus giving James
clarity and decisiveness that one does not see in the other two soldiers
that he closely works with. Therefore, to insinuate that James,
Sanborn, and Eldridge are on adrenaline rush much like drug addicts in
search of a fix by emblazoning of the words, “war is drugs” at the
beginning of the movie is to miss the whole point. Such phrasing goes
against the going theme of the movie. The movie shows three soldiers who
go on their daily challenges of detonating and/or defusing bombs
placing their lives in harm’s way every minute of the day and night to
save the lives of civilian Iraqis as well as those of their own


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