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.