Thursday, 8 April 2010

Hurt Locker reminded us of the men behind the uniform

Apologies for the delay in putting this up.
This is the column I wrote for the Bath Chronicle and was printed on March 11.

The last time I used my columns to talk about war/ peace et al, it created a healthy debate on our letters pages – and, to put it mildly, not everyone agreed with my views. But provoking debate is one of the main reasons such columns as this exist so here I go into battle-station mode yet again.


I have been provoked to do so after being truly delighted on Sunday night to see the remarkable Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker grab the two most important Oscars for best film and best director.

This was definitely my choice of the film of 2009 but I feared that the esteemed Hollywood Academy would have been so bowled over by the multi-millions raked in by 3D epic Avatar that they would have gone for that overlong slice of Pocahontas-in-space sci-fi nonsense instead.

But, thankfully, they didn't and The Hurt Locker was rightfully given the star billing it truly deserved.

For those who haven't yet seen the film (and I do hope it now gets a wider release following its Oscar success) it follows four ordinary American soldiers who just happen to have one of the worst jobs in the military – bomb disposal.

In often painstakingly intricate detail, it shows how every decision they make could literally be of life and death proportions and you can't help but put yourself in their shoes and just feel eternally grateful that you don't have to put on such footwear.

Where I think the film also triumphs is that unlike many dramas to do with wars past and present, this film makes no social or political commentary about the reasons why the soldiers are where they are. We all may have our own views about the need for our fellow countrymen to be in Iraq or Afghanistan but the real power of The Hurt Locker is to remind us all that behind the politics and the big debates are just ordinary men and women who are asked to do extraordinary jobs in inhospitable surroundings.

The film works because you look beyond the uniform and just see the men instead.

I personally think we should try to do that with all our soldiers who are currently fighting in the terrible conditions of Afghanistan. Whatever people may think of the rights and wrongs about this conflict, we should never forget that the people who have a Union Jack on their uniforms were given no choice about being sent to the front and must therefore be treated with respect for their work there regardless of our views on whether it is right or not that they are caught up in this strange and often bewildering campaign.

Men and women choose to join our forces for all kind of reasons but as Jack Nicholson's character in the film A Few Good Men pointedly says, they are sometimes doing the sort of work that we may not want to even think about but may just be making it that bit easier for us all to sleep safely each night.

The Hurt Locker is important because it shows that it is politics that causes wars but it is men and women that have to fight them.

We should never forget that.

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