A glorified view of war?

30Mar10

I watched The Hurt Locker after hearing much critical acclaim in the media. At the time it was the run up to the Oscars and it was featured prominantly in the line-up of nominations. I was also quite interested in the fact the the film was about an ongoing war – the Iraq war, which began in 2003. It’s not often that I’ve seen or heard of a film about a war that hasnt ended, unless the war has been going on for decades.

The portrayal of any war in the media has been a hugely debated topic since Vietnam. Having grown up in Northern Ireland I myself remember seeing soldiers on the streets and being in bombscares. I remember watching the news every night and hearing of riots in Belfast, shootings and murders and bombs. My parents and grandparents remember the worst days of The Troubles and I can only thank my lucky stars that I did not grow up in that dark period. Last year I read an interesting book detailing the reporting of The Troubles in the British media called ‘Ireland: The Propaganda War – The British Media and the Battle for Hearts and Minds’ by Liz Curtis, which I found equally enlightening and disturbing.

What I find most interesting about the portrayal of war is that the occupying countries media will usually support the war on the basis that they are uniting to fight a dangerous enemy (read: terrorism) and that they are seeking to improve the lives of those whose country they are occupying. In the UK there was and is widespread vocal opposition to the war itself in the media, yet unfaltering support for the soldiers involved in the war. The urge to ‘Support our Troops’ or even ‘Our boys’ is frequently heard. In America there was and is and is much oppositon to the War, except for in the right wing media, where opposing the war is seen as ‘UnAmerican’.

The Hurt Locker is unlikely to affront America, as it has a distinct lack of commentary on the ethics of the war and is a positive depiction of a soldier. Therefore its acclaim at the Oscars and in the media doesn’t surprise me. I wonder if an anti-America anti-war film would have received such a good reception?

However it was interesting to see the Iraq war as depicted from the point of view of a soldier. I was also struck by the films focus on the bravery and character of the protagonist rather than the political debate over the war. The film had a gritty realism in its cinematography, and I didn’t think that the film was glorifying the life of a soldier too much until the end, when the protagonist returns for another rotation and some heavy rock music comes in to accompany him walking slowly through the desert – which which made me laugh to myself.

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