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'The Hurt Locker' debate: accuracy vs. entertainment

February 26, 2010 |  2:53 pm

The Hurt Locker Oscars Academy Awards Kathryn Bigelow Jeremy Renner As a trio of Los Angeles Times writers -- Julian E. Barnes, Ned Parker and John Horn -- reported Friday, "Although 'The Hurt Locker' has numerous supporters within the military -- including Purple Heart winner Drew Sloan, who participated in a 'Hurt Locker' panel discussion in Hollywood with other veterans and the film's makers Wednesday night -- the movie's detractors share a consistent complaint about its representation of the Army's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team as they attempt to disarm improvised explosive devices."

Indeed, "members of EOD teams in southern Iraq said in interviews arranged by the Army that 'The Hurt Locker' is a good action movie if you know nothing about defusing roadside bombs or the military. Sgt. Eric Gordon of San Pedro, an Air Force EOD technician on his second tour in Iraq, has watched the movie a few times with his friends. 'I would watch it with other EOD people, and we would laugh,' Gordon said." And they add, "an EOD team leader in Maysan province, Staff Sgt. Jeremy D. Phillips, said although he was glad the film highlighted their trade, he disliked the celluloid treatment of EOD units. 'There is too much John Wayne and cowboy stuff. It is very loosely based on actual events,' he said. 'I'm honestly glad they are trying to convey to the public what we've been doing, and I wish maybe they had just done it with a little bit of a different spin on it,' he said."

Among those also interviewed was the film's Oscar-nominated screenwriter and co-producer Mark Boal who said "the film was not intended to be a documentary or a training film. 'We certainly made creative choices for dramatic effect,' he said. 'But I hope the choices were made respectfully and conscientiously.'"

The above report is just the latest dispatch in an ongoing debate about the Oscar contender. On Feb. 4, Iraq war veteran Kate Hoit detailed her concerns with the film in a column that appeared on the Huffington Post. As she wrote, "'The Hurt Locker' made it seem like the EOD team were taking on the streets of Baghdad; just them against a world of improvised explosive devices. However, this is when I realized the scriptwriters were lazy. This movie is a full-throttle adrenaline rush that is comprised of ditching common sense and the realities of war. The writers did not attempt to formulate a story based on the actual job of an EOD soldier. Instead, they created a war junky, sniper, commando guy who relied on no one (and no radios?) and stressed-out everyone around him, including those watching the movie."

In rebuttal, retired EOD officer and executive director of the EOD Memorial James P. O'Neil explained, "'The Hurt Locker' takes place over a year, compressed to two hours. Every moment of it is intense. Jeremy Renner's character and personality is a composite of a dozen or so EOD techs that I know. Were we as reckless as James? Hell no. I probably would have punched him out as well. The 'beyond the wire' insurgent hunt and hoodie run may not be entirely realistic, but no one can honestly say they weren't entertained and glued to their seats during these sequences."

And the film's technical adviser, James Clifford, addressed Hoit's criticism of the film as follows: "I will stipulate that Ms. Hoit's points are accurate, but they amount to differences without distinctions. Her commentary demonstrates that she has the vision to see the trees but appears to lack the judgment to see the forest. She is apparently unable to tell the difference between entertainment and education. 'The Hurt Locker' is entertainment based on real situations."


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Photo: "The Hurt Locker" still. Credit: Summit.

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The comments to this entry are closed.


I don't believe Bigelow's Oscars Will Change Hollywood because it was the Hollywood which fixed these awards. Ask any sane person about it or search on the Internet or conduct a nation wide public poll. I bet, The Hurt Locker will NOT win a single major award. This years Oscars are a big bore with such a stupid show (irrespective of 5 year high viewership) and its prestige is going down year by year....thanks to the silly Academy voters!!!

The first time I saw this movie was roughly a year before it was released in theatres. A copy of it was circulating throughout the EOD community, which I happen to be a member of. I watched it with a room full of fellow bomb technicians, and we all got a great laugh out of it. It is true that the movie is very innacurate, but it is also a movie. It has to be entertaining. If you were to watch a "real" day in the life of EOD techs, you would witness a nonstop 18 hour trip from IED to IED, flawlessly disarming one after another, 99% of the time from the safety of a armored vehicle using 200 thousand dollar robots. It would not make for a very entertaining movie. More interesting would be the conversations recorded in between incidents. Some of the most illustrious characters I have met are EOD Techs, and that is an understatement. So when you view the film, know that we do not take risks of that magnitude, but any time you put your life in danger you are taking a risk. Enjoy the film, and thank you for your continued support.

Hurt Locker’s misguided rift!

I guess I just can’t help myself, so I decided to dive into this short-lived controversy stimulated by the hurt locker movie. Considering the fact that I was wounded in four different explosions while serving in the Marines, I would love to jump up in the theater and scream “YOU DON’T JUST FALL OVER WHEN YOU’RE BLOWN UP”!!!!!

Over the years countless times I have had friends or so called friends call and suggest that I have to see the latest war flick. (Not the best suggestion for a guy who didn’t sleep for years for more than 15 minutes at a time; courtesy of a good
old-fashion dose of PTSD) I realized they all want some form of resolution for the picture they painted in each of their minds about how war must be. The truth be known it’s really about our own insecurities and our innate desire to confirm to ourselves in some way weather we would make it in combat or not. Do we have the right stuff, so to speak?

Everyone wants to believe they do, ha.

The issues combat-veterans have are really a mixed bag of emotions. They want people to know something about combat, so that they can be acknowledged for what they did for their country or truth be known, the “Bilderberg type groups” if you’re knowledgeable about who really needs these conflicts fostered.

Veteran’s desires to share their experiences will always come up short; it is limited to the life experiences of the individual they are speaking to. Someone who has worked for Doctors Without Borders (PLUG!) and has experiencing some far off conflict might get it, but if your trying to tell a Nun about a night with a smoking hot babe you went to bed with…..uh uh.

The ironic/crazy part about this controversy is, it’s not about combat-veterans issues pertaining to their life quality after combat. It’s about a movie! A made up story. where an actor gets paid Millions to fake what we really did for Hundreds.

Lets get real here, Veterans be thankful something got your adrenaline running again, after all combat is the ultimate rush! And for all you noncombatants going to the theater for a thrill, be thankful the thrill you get isn’t capable of ruining your nervous system for the rest of your life. In the end combat veterans would never truly wish on anyone the horror of experiencing combat first hand.

Combat-Veterans remember you have something that money can’t buy, and combat wanna-be’s will never know. “Until you’ve been in Combat, you only think you are a man.”

Semper Fi
Proud to have served with my brothers in Alpha 1/5.

I am a veteran of the war in Iraq, let me just say this. Some things may have been unrealistic, especially the part where the EOD team pushes into the hajji hunt. HOWEVER, it's all entertainment. Did you enjoy the movie? That's all that matters. You can't take it too seriously.

The key point is this, even if this isn't EXACTLY how it plays out people still die over there and this should give you a little more respect.

Agree with James. It is a movie. Just that. If you want to portray things a little more accurately, go make a documentary.

Lord, this site is getting worse and worse. Has it really come down to this? Every film based on a historical account goes through its accusations of inaccuracy. This is nothing new, so why are you guys trying to act like it is? Honestly, you're really no better than Entertainment Weekly.

OOHH>>>> the anti- Hurt Locker campaign begins.

Does anybody find it odd that Gold Derby is pushing this "Hurt Locker can't win because it's inaccurate" line? Keep in mind the guy who runs this website is predicting a movie where a ragtag Jewish commando team kills Hitler.

Tom is merely reporting on current events and pondering what effect this might have with the last few days of voting and a decent portion of Academy members wait until the last minute to vote. I've read about this and the email controversy elsewhere. This isn't about Tom hoping to influence an IB win over Hurt Locker, Avatar, or other nominee. I mean, to be honest, as much as Tom is successful at what he does, Academy members will not be influenced over one single critic's position. This is not the Golden Globes.

How convenient that all of this has arisen just a few days shy of deadline. This base smear campaign against "Locker" is nothing short of despicable and the very reason why no one takes the Oscars seriously.

You are a total dirtbag.

That's why you won't respond to these posts.

1) You are self-serving to the LA market, which you deem anti-Hurt Locker.
2) You are pretending the news is only about an e-mail and are using it to serve your own purposes, a crackpot theory where you are the only Inglorious supporter.
3) Unable to question why so many people are calling you out for radically aligning against one film.

If any of you think the Academy just wants to give an award to a female, check it's history and tell me what's different about this year - 2010 - than any other.

Oh wait, the best movie of the year CLEARLY was directed by a woman. Even if it's about an unpopular war, without celebrities who suck on the teet of LA.

I bet you wish Valentine's Day gets a Best Ensemble award next year. That'd make LA happy...

-- Every new WAR--- is the latest modern war...

A soldier does not "win" a Purple Heart. He or she is *awarded* a Purple Heart.

I wouldn't necessarily say that Tom. I really liked The Hurt Locker for its gripping suspense and different characters, and it was very well made, whether the director was a female, or not. Now, do I think its a little overrated by critics? Yes, without a doubt. I admire all the hell that the team went through to make this movie is such an unforgivable and dangerous environment. I still think Inglourious Basterds is probably a better movie, because of its brilliant screenplay, acting, and jigsaw story that comes together so nicely in the final act. I also thought Avatar was great, for its ability to portray powerful emotional responses just from imagery alone, as well as its technical prowess, and the political messages it was sending (which I happen to agree with).


An awful lot of Hurt Locker is inaccurate/over-marketed/scandalous/in violation of the rules posts lately, aren't there? And so soon after the IB posts. Forgive me for being skeptical of your intentions in sharing this non-news now, with a few days to go in voting.

As for the actual criticisms, please: of course people who are in this line of work will find the film gung ho and a bit silly -- it's their work, and it doesn't have a coherent narrative or protagonists with arcs. This is all much ado about nothing.

Your wrong Tom the thing about the hurt locker is that woman actually directed this kind of movie. Plus Inglorious Bastardes is overatted.

In my humble opinion, this was a very good, entertaining movie. Did it reflect real scenarios? Probably, but those are just reflections.

I would say, that if the directors wanted to show a highly accurate documentary about the EOD teams, this movie would probably not be able to be shown to the general public.

I'm sorry Kate, but if anyone watches a movie and thinks that this is real (any movie), they need to seek professional help. It is called the entertainment business for a reason =)

If Hollywood wasn't so hellbent on giving an Oscar for an action film to a female, Hurt Locker would already be at the bottom of the $5 bin at WalMart.



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