The Hurt Locker : A Vet's View

I read with interest Kate Hoit's comments about The Hurt Locker. As the military advisor to the movie, I've read countless reviews, commentaries, and criticisms of The Hurt Locker in the last 18 months or so. Until now, I haven't felt it necessary for me to respond. Her comments motivate me to change that course.

As a fellow vet (I've served 30 years in uniform, 28 of those as an EOD Soldier, and nearly four years as civilian to date) I honor Ms. Hoit's service and I'm impressed by her passion for the United States Army. She obviously knows something that only those of us who serve know; that being a Soldier is an affair of the heart. And, that is just where Ms. Hoit misses the point of The Hurt Locker.

By making a list of what she surmises to be technical errors she demonstrates that she doesn't appear to understand the points of the movie. To counter each one individually is a useless exercise that will fail to convince anyone. People will believe what they believe and no argument to the contrary is likely to sway them. Rather than do that I will only say that each item she pointed out was a conscious decision made to focus the audience's attention. Not one of her criticisms detracts from the story. On the contrary, if understood it is obvious that most of them enhance the story without damaging the realism. Additionally I offer an alternative view.

The Hurt Locker is a story of a very special group of Soldiers in a very unique situation. The war in Iraq, and increasingly the war in Afghanistan, calls for the special skills of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine at an unprecedented extent. The nature of these wars has never before been seen in history. Writer Mark Boal and Producer/Director Kathryn Bigelow recognized that this situation was both unique and unknown to the average American. They had the vision to bring this to the public in the form of a motion picture.

In so doing they were presented with several challenges. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal mission is highly sophisticated and purposely cloaked in secrecy in the interest of safety and security for the EOD Soldier and the country. To lift that cloak too high would have been irresponsible. EOD operators defy definition. Each is as unique as a fingerprint while at the same time possessing the highest level of courage, dedication, self confidence, and integrity. Add to that an environment saturated by improvised explosive devices planted by terrorists and insurgents that hide among the populace and you have a seemingly impossible situation and the makings of great movie, if you can pull it off. Apparently most who have seen the movie think that Kathryn and Mark have pulled it off just fine. By most accounts The Hurt Locker is a highly entertaining movie that has enlightened the public to the idea that there is a group of Soldiers standing between them and the scourge of the improvised explosive device.

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 judgement 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.

As for her assertion that The Hurt Locker has "alienated most service members from enjoying this movie" I respond that Ms. Hoit does not speak for most, or even many, service members. She speaks for herself only. I'm certain that there are many who share her opinion but I caution that there are many others who disagree. In the past many months I've spoken to or corresponded with countless active or former soldiers. Many of those are EOD soldiers and many others are not. Many are veterans of our current conflicts and many served in earlier times. Most recognize that the movie takes some artistic license but none have told me that it distracts from the movie. But, as I said, I don't speak for those soldiers. I'd rather let the words of a real EOD veteran speak for themselves. Timothy Colomer, a Marine EOD Iraq veteran, when asked by The Daily Beast how he thought The Hurt Locker portrayed EOD technicians said it "took numerous Hollywood liberties but accurately captured the sensory experience of being an EOD soldier." This Soldier gets it. Ms. Hoit does not.