I have to watch a lot of movies for my graduate program’s qualifying exams - crushing, I know - so I’m using Tumblr to keep track of them.
Tonight: The Hurt Locker. I’d seen this film before but it remains gripping, horrifying, and stressful.
But the scene that stays with me and grabs me - the punctum, maybe - is the moment when Jeremy Renner is standing in the grocery store looking at the cereal. The fluorescence is stark, the elevator muzak is so lacking in emotion, the vast amount of products is daunting.The anxiety of defusing bombs is, for Renner, preferable to the anxiety of an existence in which that kind of decision means something.
In Dispatches, a new journalism take on the Vietnam War, journalist Michael Herr writes that the war became to some soldiers a masculinist, aggressive fantasy of enacting a particular kind of violent politics that reigned absent a bureaucratic, managerial system. I see the same threads in The Hurt Locker. As terrifying and truly death-defying the soldiers’ jobs are - particularly in dealing with IEDs - there’s something to be said for finding meaning and purpose in that world.
Also, Jesus, the uncertainty in knowing who is an enemy and who isn’t… this film makes the difficulty of that distinction clear. It’s something soldiers have dealt with since the colonial era, probably before that (my exams, alas, begin with the 1600s in ‘Murica). Uncertainty in predicting others’ actions, as Hobbes reminds us, breeds a state of war. No kidding, no kidding.