Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Army of One

The Hurt Locker's chances of winning have not been damaged one bit by all the Army-Partisan knitpicking. The film will still lose to Avatar, just as scheduled.

Accuracy is a funny thing, sometimes we want it, sometimes we don't. Filmmakers have no responsibility whatsoever to provide you with accurate details. They should have no allegiance to any one group, or ideology, ideally. If you want specific, informative, accurate detail, get a textbook (unless you're in Texas). But don't go to the movies for it. That's pretty foolish.

Besides, define accuracy accurately. Try it. We know some facts to be inherently true. There are things we can verify. An IED defuser leaving the barracks for an entire night to wander deep into a dangerous area of town might never happen, but then again, it might. What, you're going to tell me it's impossible?

The type of uniform a soldier is wearing only matters to someone who used to be or is still a soldier. But filmmakers have no allegiance to you. Sorry. It would be nice if they had gotten that right, but did they maliciously get it wrong? That's quite doubtful.

Would a commanding officer allow an enemy combatant to bleed to death? You're going to tell me it's impossible? In this war?

The military is not an organization above scrutiny. And while you are respected and admired for your self-sacrifice, you do not get to dictate to filmmakers how their films are made. Complete fealty to your institution ignores the My Lais and Shock and Awes that occur under its purview.

I'm more than tired, really, of all this fealty to the military, anyway. I'm not anti-military at all, in principle, but not every soldier is a hero, and there are numerous documents, stories, films, photographs, memoirs, tv shows, and on and on to give anyone who is interested more than enough detail to absorb, accurately. And some of it is accurate information the Army and its enlisted men and women would rather we'd have never seen. Here're some facts for you. Go ahead and tell me what they mean.

Bigelow's film is not concerned with strict realism. It is being marketed as an action film, but it plays like an existential drama in the desert. If they've gotten some clothes or protocol wrong, they're only human, but, right or wrong, their priority is to tell the story they are telling, not the one you'd prefer.

These complaints are kind of the equivalent of the imdb Goofs section, writ large, because, understandably, the enlisted have very strong attachments to how units are run. I get that, but I would like to gently persuade anyone offended by it, that even if the The Hurt Locker were one hundred percent accurate, it would still not be making enough bank to qualify as a consciousness raiser for the people who made the hideous army recruitment ad, Transformers 2, the second biggest hit of 2009.

And you're going to tell me turning Bigelow's movie into Army propaganda and getting the suits right would get through to people? Not without giant Deceptinuts, Private. Hate to break it to you.

You may say Bigelow and co. are dishonoring the troops. Well, that is not their intention. But it is also, right or wrong, their right to "dishonor" the military if they find fault with how it or individuals within it are operating.

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