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My bomb scene phobia cured | The Velvet Café

hurtlockerThere are a couple things in the world that give me creeps.

One of them is spiders, which bugs me (sic!) quite a bit. How I wish that I was more like Sigourney Weaver! It doesn’t make sense why a tiny little eight legged creature should be any worse than a six legged one, even when it’s got the size of an ant, but there you are. I fear them and I hate them.

For a few years I played the role of the heroic mother. I pretended they didn’t bother me since I didn’t want to inspire my children to be like me. So I pulled myself together, saying “oh, look a spider, how cute!” and tried to sound convincing. But once my kids were big enough to understand that they should trust their own judgment rather than their mother’s, I went back to follow my instincts, which meant jumping up on a chair, screaming and pointing at the monster spider that was about to eat me alive and expecting someone else to deal with it.

Bomb phobia
A second thing that gives me the creeps is when I have to watch people disarming bombs in TV series or movies.

You know how the story usually goes. Here’s a bomb that needs to be dealt with and a squad is sent in, armed with scissors, ready to cut the wires and there’s always a clock counting down and it’s going to reach zero any time now and their hands are trembling and they’re sweating all over the place and they HAVE to cut NOW and they don’t know if they should cut the red wire or the black one and they have to just take a chance on it and I’m wondering why on Earth they can’t just send in a machine to do those things, haven’t they learned to build robots YET and I close my eyes and my blood is boiling with bomb-squad-sympathy angst, not only a little bit of excitement, exactly as intended I guess, but it’s not a pleasant fear, it’s the kind of fear that makes you want to take cover under a blanket and refuse to leave your shelter EVER, at least not before the episode is over. Because who knows, that bomb might actually go off!

Now get me right: for my fears, a bomb scene in a movie isn’t a deal breaker. After all I can always close my eyes for a little while and open them once it’s over.

Nevertheless, it probably was just as well that I didn’t know what I was in for as I decided to watch The Hurt Locker, a movie which apparently won six Oscars a couple of years ago, but which I knew very little about since I don’t care that much for the academy awards.

Without having any details, I knew as much as that it was a war movie. If nothing else you could tell from the cover.

To be honest, I’ve never been all that much into this genre. I suppose all those high quality Vietnam films that came out in the 70s and 80s did more than enough to satisfy whatever desire I had for it for a very long time. There was nothing wrong with those movies, but after a while they all melted together in my memory into a soup of mud and napalm burning in the jungle heat, boys longing to go home, lost limbs, lost trust and drugs as the only comfort. I had been there and done that – not once, but many times. Too many.

However with a scenario set in a contemporary Iraq, it sounded as if The Hurt Locker could offer a different angle. I was also tickled by the information that it was made by a female director. Not only did she snatch an Oscar for it in a time where few women even get to make any movies at all. She did it in a genre that I think very few would expect a woman to go for. Of course I wanted to see it and rejoice at the fact that this kick-ass director had helped to break the ground for more women in Hollywood.

Nonstop bomb disabling
Little did I imagine that I was about to watch a movie that contained more or less non stop disabling of bombs, one after another, only broken up by a few scenes where they shot at each other instead. And little did I imagine how much it would engage me. With very little introduction to the characters or a “plot” to follow, the film had my full attention from the very first minute and kept it all the way through.

I who usually find action and war movies pretty borning, suddenly found myself absolutely immersed, not to say hypnotized, by the chaos, by the shaky hand camera, by the tension, by the people in the bomb squad, especially their leader, wonderfully played by Jeremy Renner, who has exactly the right mixture of goodness, arrogance, craziness, fatalism and charisma. These guys have a job that probably is about the worst you possibly could imagine. The theory suggested in the film from the very start in the form of a quote is that they’re driven by some kind of addiction.

Is this theory founded in reality? Maybe, maybe not. I suppose that while it’s probably not the motivation for every bomb expert, it could very well be true in a few cases. And this brings us over the question of realism. Is there any truth in it or is it just a case of free fantasies and speculation, no more believable than any James Bond movie?

I threw a quick glance at IMDb and found a huge amount of furious 1/10 reviews from military veterans who pointed out all the factual errors in it.

The script is based on or at least inspired by articles written by a journalist who followed a bomb squad in Iraq for a couple of weeks, and maybe this in combination with the shaky hand camera style led those people to believe that they would get to see a documentary rather than a feature film.

But if want to make a film that works as a film you need to make some compromises, especially when you’re working with a small budget and under quite difficult circumstances during the recording, which was the case. After watching the “about” film in the extras, I can’t say anything that I’m impressed by how they’ve managed to create a very authentic feeling by small means. There may be flaws in it but they escape my untrained eye and they don’t take away anything of my appreciation.

I loved it. Not because it won Oscars and not because it’s directed by a woman, but because it was a great war movie that actually made me interested in watching some more war movies. I think the break I’ve had from the genre has lasted long enough.

As a side effect, all this exposure must have cured my bomb scene phobia. Next time I’ll watch someone risking their lives tempering with a bomb, it will just be another day at work.

Now to find some way to deal with my spider hang-up….

The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, US, 2009) My rating: 4,5/5

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