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Some Ramblings - The Hurt Locker
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla
the hurt locker

Before the troop surge took place, before the spate of murders subsided, before the gradual stabilization and slow reconciliation happened, the streets of Iraq were straightway to hell. For well over a period of four years, the hourly headlines emanating from the region concerning roadside explosions, drive by shootings and drive away kidnappings pretty much remained name except in the victims tally, the daily logs of the troops patrolling the streets and the suburbs of the seriously destabilized country reported similar routines and similar disastrous results - the Humvees carrying the troops leaving the Green Zone at the start of their shifts, encountering a crowded area where they had to slow down, getting ripped apart by the explosions from an IED (improved explosive device) near by and rushing back into the zone with the fatalities and the injured. The streets of Baghdad become troop traps and the troops themselves became walking sitting ducks. Just what effect does it have on the psyche of the troops when their return to the safe zone with all their limbs and faculties intact was only a mere chance? War in (occupation of) Iraq was (?) a different beast altogether a nightmare scenario that could only till then be imagined only in video games. The margin of error for the troops hovered over zero with the strict instructions (not to mention inordinate pressure) from the top brass to get it right (killing only the insurgent from a group of friendlies) every single time. For an armed troop in the field, the issue is beyond politics, morality and ethics. The name of game is survival - kill or get killed. The mere thought of standing in the middle of the thoroughfare with his full gear on, absorbing every degree of the oppressive heat, darting looks in every direction looking out for the slightest hint of trouble/danger, the enormous control that is needed to keep the index finger away from the trigger so as not to discharge the weapon accidentally, is beyond the realms of imagination of the common man (or for that matter, even a seasoned veteran). And once the will and the self control give away to maniacal madness, massacres such as one committed by the Marines in the infamous 'Haditha incident' grab the headlines.

'The Hurt Locker' is about that thin line that separates life and death, madness and sanity, luck and the lack of it. The view is not from high atop where strategies are made, but down on the ground where plans are executed. The movie takes no sides, and rightly so, as it makes absolutely no difference to the foot soldier whether he is in the war for the right reason or not, particularly in the face of near death situations. The order of the day is to go out and come back in one piece, and the rest is above his pay grade. It becomes hard not to be sympathetic to the plight of the soldiers, when the rules of the engagement practically ties their hands behind their back, in the name of Geneva conventions, human rights and civil liberties, while fighting an enemy who had basically shed his humanity. And in the process of keeping up with the enemy, he is forced to cloak his emotions, deal with the present and accept the hard boiled reality. 'The Hurt Locker' excels as a tense thriller by side stepping the obvious politics and concentrating on the action of the day to day duties of the soldiers in a land, where both the geography and the topography collude against them on a constant basis. Added to that the realistic staging of sniper tactics, the bomb dismantling techniques and the overall military logistics, make this a near perfect war thriller (if there ever could be such genre) rivaling Ridley Scott's 'Black Hawk Down' from years ago, about a similar predicament that the US troops faced in Mogadishu, Somalia, that time peace-keeping.

Parallels between 'The Hurt Locker' and the yester year's epic 'Apocalypse Now' can hardly be missed however. In both situations the troops find themselves in an unwanted place, in an unknown terrain, completely lost in regard to the local cultures and local sensibilities, carrying out duties forced upon them. And the only way they hang on to their sanities in both cases remain disassociating from (suspending) the dreary realities on the ground by hopelessly clinging on their senses of duty; and that probably explains why the enlisted volunteer for multiple tours of duty despite the horrors and hardships they encountered the previous time. And the common answer of the returning troops for why go back again into the jaws of death remains, for the fellow soldier, and not for the cause, not for people back home and certainly not for the greater good. 'The Hurt Locker' captures that basic philosophy that drives the troops through treacherous terrains, as it delivers one of the taut, tense, gripping and nerve racking war movies in a long time.

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More Ramblings on films
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
Quantom of Solace
The Dark Knight
Wall - E
The incredible Hulk
Indiana Jones and the kingdom of crystal skull
Speed Racer
Iron Man
Jodha Akbar
There will be blood
Chrlie Wilson's War
No Country for Old Men
Om Shanti Om
Lions for Lambs
American Gangster
Michael Clayton
Happy Days
Chak De India!
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Simpsons Movie
The Grindhouse
Casino Royale
The Departed
Lage Raho Munnabhai
Superman Returns
The Da Vinci Code
Sri Ramadasu
Rang De Basanti (Hindi)
Jai Chiranjeeva!
Munich (English)
Sarkar (Hindi)
Mangal Padey (Hindi)
Kaadhal (Tamil)
Anukokunda Oka Roju
Batman Begins (English)
Radha Gopalam
Mughal E Azam
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve


This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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