A Response To My “Hurt Locker” Inquiry

Note: This post contains spoilers about The Hurt Locker. If you haven’t seen the film and don’t like spoilers, I recommend not reading the post. But it’s up to you.

Tokyo Tom Baker partially answers an inquiry I had earlier concerning the use of Gears of War in The Hurt Locker, which can be found on my blog, but also over at Roger Ebert’s website here. He writes on his blog, and in his review of the film,

“The theme of seeking order amid chaos is also apparent in a scene in which a soldier named Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) tries to lose himself in a violent video game after making a shoot/don’t-shoot decision that cost a friend his life. In a video game, you get a second chance to shoot, and you can do it over and over until you get it right.”

My response after the jump.

It’s an interesting take, and I think it’s certainly one of the many possibilities. This interpretation still bases itself on the idea that it’s a game about war that matters, not also that it’s “Gears of War” that matters. I admit that’s probably the most likely possibility, and that the fact that it’s “Gears of War” over, say, “Call of Duty,” is probably a minute detail.

But it’s true, I think, that it has a direct correlation to the character of Eldridge. One thing I particularly appreciate is the idea of connecting it to his not having taken that shot in the beginning. That alone puts the scene in a whole new light, and I think adds a dimension to the character that I hadn’t fully considered. It’s also interesting considering later when he DOES take the shot. He asks for Ssgt. James’ opinion on it, but he still takes it.

Furthermore, I think the idea of seeking order amid chaos is a very interesting look at the film. But is that the overriding theme? If order is what Ssgt. James is looking for, why seek out the chaos? Why get a thrill from the chaos of war? Why return to it? The absolute order seen within the grocery store near the end of the film horrifies, even frightens James, more so than diffusing a hundred more bombs. All the cereal is stacked on well-ordered shelves, easy to find whatever one would need. Yet James has no idea what to pick. He’s confused. He’s feels out of place.

I certainly believe that the search for order within chaos is applicable to Eldridge, however. He’s a man who probably never should have gone to war in the first place. He finds comfort in fixing the trucks, in making sure he’s in control of his own life. He finds relaxation in playing a game about war, not experiencing it himself. His order exists in being in control of situations in an environment where he’s in control of practically nothing. He’s not in control of who lives or who dies, or who’s an enemy and who’s not. He has no control.

Still, a great example of the significance of the scene, and the deeper implications it has on the character. I believe it also says something about the deeper implications of the film. For example, the idea that Ssgt. James gets such an adrenaline rush from the whole thing, which is exactly what you get playing a game like “Gears of War.” The difference, of course, is that in real life, you can’t hit that reset button.

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3 Responses to A Response To My “Hurt Locker” Inquiry

  1. [...] original post here: A Response To My “Hurt Locker” Inquiry « CINEVIEWS Easy AdSense by Unreal Filed under All, Art, ER, Tom, Uncategorized, ad, [...]

  2. Nathan, thanks for your response to my response to your “Hurt Locker” comments. (Everyone else, be warned that the rest of my comment contains a significant spoiler.)
    I don’t know if my order-vs-chaos idea captures *the* overriding theme of the of the movie, but I am convinced that it is a major one. You point out that the supermarket seems to be an exception to the pattern – James clearly does not find the orderly cereal aisle to be to his liking – but maybe I could have expressed my idea better by saying that he is narrowing all that he cares about in the world to the one thing he understands and that also makes a difference. (This would rule out the cereal aisle, which is a neat array of meaningless choices.) Order-vs-chaos is a major part of that winnowing process.
    The one time he tries to solve a puzzle bigger and more complex than the wiring of a bomb is when he goes AWOL to investigate and avenge the mysterious death of the kid he knew as Beckham. Things go disastrously wrong on that outing, not the least because it turns out that Beckham has been alive and well all along. This leads James to realize that he understands even less of what is going on around him in Iraq than he had thought. (It takes a few scenes for that lesson to sink in.) But he still understands how a bomb is put together and taken apart, so he focuses in on that more than ever.

    • Nathan says:

      James clings to bomb diffusion because it’s what he loves doing. I don’t know if it’s necessarily an issue of finding some kind of order in a chaotic world. It’s the way he gets off. It’s his drug, as the film aptly points out. He tells his son he really only has one love left in life, and we all know what he’s referring to. But the entire idea of bomb diffusion is an idea that surrounds chaos. James places himself in chaotic situations time after time: like going down to get something he forgot in the middle of a bomb test area, or going outside of the “green zone” to find Beckham’s family, or going outside of the perimeter to find the people responsible for bombing the oil truck. All these things put him in situations that CREATE chaos. And as I’ve said, the only times he’s in positions where he has complete control, he feels utter confusion and like an outsider.

      I like the idea of searching for order within chaos, and I think it’s a theme worth exploring within the film in relation to certain situations or characters (like Eldridge, who I think it’s very applicable to). But I don’t think it applies to James much at all.

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