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Kate Hoit

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The Hurt Locker Doesn't Get This Vet's Vote

Posted: 02/04/10 09:20 AM ET

Military personnel everywhere should be celebrating: the war flick "The Hurt Locker" has been nominated for nine Oscars. Americans were so curious about the war and the soldiers who fight in it, that they bought 10 dollar movie tickets. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thinks it's worthy; finally soldiers of the Iraq war have been embraced. The problem is, it's Hollywood's version of the Iraq war and of the soldiers who fight it, and their version is inaccurate.

The year is 2004, the Baghdad streets are clean, almost too clean, and dust lingers in the air. Suddenly soldiers appear...in the wrong uniform. Soldiers deployed to Iraq in 2004, the year "The Hurt Locker" was suppose to take place, were not wearing the Army Combat Uniform. I should know, I was there. We still wore the Desert Camouflage Uniform. How hard would it have been to get this correct? Apparently so hard that no one working on the movie could be bothered to consult anyone with knowledge of military dress, or visit the local surplus store. Congratulations! What seemed like a would-be decent military movie to those who had actually served was now automatically ruined within the first few minutes. And for future reference, military personnel do not roll their sleeves up in a combat zone.

No, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team would not roll out into the middle of Iraq practically by themselves. "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.

Sergeant First Class William James, played by Jeremy Renner, befriends a young Iraqi boy, Beckham, who sold him poorly pirated movies. I will admit Hollywood got two things right: Iraqis typically sold horribly pirated movies and most soldiers continued to buy them. With this friendship, "The Hurt Locker", tapped into the more human side of war; the unique bond between some soldiers and Iraqis. However, this relationship set the stage for one of the best "this is total crap" scenes in the movie.

James forces a merchant at Camp Victory, for whom Beckham works, to drive him to Beckham's house (James believes Beckham has been killed and gutted to fit an unexploded bomb inside of his body). James makes his way to Beckham's house and demands to know what exactly happened to Beckham. Well, he never finds out because he is kicked out. James' ride has left him and he has no other chose but to run back to Camp Victory. Throwing up the hood of the sweatshirt, he runs through the streets of Baghdad. While I watched that scene I automatically thought, there isn't a soldier in the world who would leave their base and run through Baghdad unless they were trying to commit suicide. I laughed out-loud in the theater -- could anyone actually believe this? When James finally reaches Camp Victory, a sympathetic soldier on guard-duty lets him on base. So, let me get this straight. We have an American soldier running through Iraq in a hooded sweatshirt, trying to find out what happened to a kid who sold bootleg movies, and a sweet soldier who just lets James waltz on base? Bravo Hollywood; that was pure magical bullshit.

When James returns from Iraq and attempts to adjust to normal civilian life, "The Hurt Locker," got it right: home isn't so sweet, and readjusting is tough. James struggled to raise his children with his wife. Hell, he had trouble deciding which cereal to buy at the grocery store. James realized there was only "one thing" that he loved and that was military life. So, he went back to Iraq. This happens more then some would believe.

Despite incorrect uniforms and how they were worn, what patches an EOD soldier would have on their uniform, who would accompany EOD on a mission, proper weapons, and showing Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) drinking alcohol in a war zone, this movie resonated with many. My civilian friends "loved it", called it "awesome", and even told me I have "large balls" for going over there (to which I responded with, "uhh thanks.")

"The Hurt Locker," is in many ways inaccurate, and the inaccuracies have alienated most service members from enjoying this movie. However, it is better then a lot of the recently released war movies. Do I even have to mention "Stop-Loss?" Awful. James represents a Hollywood soldier that is fearless, reckless, and is now the face of the 21st century G.I. Joe. And who doesn't love G.I. Joe, right?

Edited for grammatical accuracy.