"Hurt Locker" breaks Hollywood's Iraq war curse

Tue Mar 2, 2010 3:31pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - World War Two produced Oscar winner "The Bridge over the River Kwai". The Vietnam war was immortalized on screen by Academy Award winners "The Deer Hunter" and "Platoon".

Now the Iraq conflict has inspired "The Hurt Locker" -- a low-budget, independently-made movie that is enjoying a level of industry success that has eluded other Hollywood films about America's ongoing military mission in the Middle East.

"The Hurt Locker," the tense tale of U.S. bomb disposal experts in Iraq, heads into Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony not only as a best picture front-runner but as one of the best reviewed movies of 2009 and with 67 awards under its belt.

Where "Hurt Locker" has succeeded -- and other Iraq-themed films like "Body of Lies", "Stop-Loss" and "In the Valley of Elah" have failed -- is due to a combination of a good story, timing, and the transcendence of politics, experts say.

"Most of the earlier movies about the Iraq war had some overt political message that was generally critical of the war and the reasons for getting into it," said Todd Boyd, professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California.

"This is in many ways a traditional war film. The lead character is a gung-ho American soldier. But it is not overtly critical. It has taken a political issue and turned it into a very contemporary take on a genre film," Boyd said.

While perceptions of the film's authenticity have been mixed among members of the U.S. military, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been a supporter.

"This is the first Iraq war movie that he has liked, or for that matter seen," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told the Los Angeles Times. "In looking at all previous films, he thought they had too much of a political agenda."   Continued...