There’s very little for me to say about this movie that hasn’t been said better elsewhere but one thing that might tell you how good I think it was is by mentioning how much it made me respect those who fight for once. I’m generally entirely opposed to war, to the point I will rarely even comment on it for fear of causing offence. It bugs me, for example, when deaths of soldiers at war are reported on the news as if we should be surprised that anybody at war should somehow manage to get hurt. As long as conscription remains at bay, in my opinion only a crazy, desperate person or a sheep would sign up to the armed forces, and if they do then they should be refused entry on psychiatric grounds if they don’t understand that people die when they fire weapons at each other. (Please don’t respond to this stance in comments: I mention it only to give you some idea of why a movie like this needs to be really good for me, for want of a better word, to “like” it…)
I remember having a similar response to Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down years back, but that came so soon after 9/11 I put it down to shear shock – there was a part of me I’ll admit early in the decade that kinda did want someone to just “blow them up, all of them” etc. For the most part, for me, the great war movies have still remained firmly in the previous century. But I can’t deny this one access to that group. Some people have tried to explain how this movie somehow isn’t a war movie afterall. I’ve always hated this kind of argument. Particularly when a lot of these people are probably just surprised that it was a woman, Kathryn Bigelow, calling the shots. This is absolutely a war movie – it deals with an aspect of war … the very question that I answer with, “because they must be stupid!” above … simply, why do these people go out there? And further, why do some of them, like the central character here, go back for more?!!
Needless to say, the movie doesn’t change my total opposition to war: at nearly 30, I’m pretty much set that way. But in plain cinema terms, it does complicate the answer to that question and give me more to ponder. It presents us with a phenomenally complex character, and it puts us into his world with heartpoundingly visceral realism. The first 15 minutes of this movie are incredibly tough to watch, the tension that builds up almost unbearable. It’s that time of year when I tend to start mentioning the Oscars is every other review so here’s as good a place as any to start: I don’t know about the best picture slot, with 10 entries it doesn’t even seem worth speculating this year … but if Bigelow isn’t in the best director category I think I might be pretty angry. She’s really outdone herself here and easily joins the many great directors who have made this genre such an unlikely favourite of mine.