The Hurt Locker and Moving Pictures

The Hurt Locker

When I first started hearing about The Hurt Locker I was very confused. This is partly because of the medium, which was Twitter, which by definition makes for abbreviated messages, but it was partly because I'm easily confused. I had the correct impression that it is a fantastic film, but for some reason I thought it was a horror film, and came up with all kinds of possible plots, some including a haunted locker room at a terrible high school. I really couldn't have been more off base.

The Hurt Locker is a tautly filmed, extremely suspenseful, graphic film about a United States Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team stationed in Iraq. Filmed in Jordan, with some scenes taking place very close to the Iraq border, the film follows the various members of the squad, with a special emphasis on SFC William James (played by Jeremy Renner who was terrific in The Unusuals and 28 Weeks Later), who is somewhat unhinged, if you ask me. The film is both hyper-real and surreal, which sounds impossible, but that's how I felt. There were scenes where I couldn’t tell if what was happening was real and there were scenes that felt extra real, with that special feeling you get when there's danger and time slows down, giving you more time to react, but also the feeling that you aren't moving fast enough.

As the story begins James is just joining the squad, replacing a soldier who has died. James is cocky, which I guess you have to be if you're going to have enough hubris to take apart bombs for a living, and quickly alienates his fellow soldiers with his disdain for safety procedures. For instance he doesn't use the robot that is designed for bomb work, instead walking right up to a suspicious device and diving right in. The film is based on the observations of Mark Boal, a journalist who was embedded with in Iraq as a freelance journalist in 2004. The character of James is not based on one person, but rather a composite of traits and actions he saw in several members of the unit.

Kathryn Bigelow, the director of the film, picked up a Director's Guild Award this past weekend, prompting some comments about how shocking her win was. This reaction was puzzling to me as The Hurt Locker is an incredible film which well deserves any number of awards. Ms. Bigelow's directing is fantastic, taking a subject that I wouldn't ordinarily want to know more about, and making it engrossing and heartbreaking. It really made me aware of why so many returning soldiers have PTSD and have trouble adjusting to civilian life. When danger literally can be found anywhere how do you stop being hyper alert?

Moving Pictures
To change the subject completely, I finally read Terry Pratchett's Moving Pictures this week. I'd started it a year or so ago but then lost the book, only now returning to it. The timing was good for me as Moving Pictures is hilarious and was a good antidote to the depressing Hurt Locker.

The book is about what happens when an idea creeps into the Discworld and the alchemists invent film. From there it's a short trip to all the glamour and glitz associated with the film industry. I particularly enjoyed the book because I've worked on more than a dozen films and television shows and Terry absolutely nails the backstage details to great effect. Whether it's the lure of the film industry to those who aren't involved or the amount of time spent waiting between shots or the way films are made completely out of order, he skewers them and shows how funny they can be.

But Moving Pictures is more than just another story about Hollywood (or Holy Wood as it is in this book), it also has a romance, some awesome dogs (one more awesome than the other), danger, some elder gods, or something a lot like an elder god, and plenty of other terrific elements. It's classic Terry Pratchett and tons of fun.

You can read an excerpt here:

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Jareb who writes in to say, "I'm heartbroken over Frances Reid passing on. She was Alice Horton on Days of Our Lives. She was like my grandma growing up. It's not going to be the same without her." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at