The cinematic treatment of the Iraq War has been a losing battle, even prompting jokes from Jon Stewart at the Oscars. The mildest of these was "Stop-Loss" which I thought let the government off the hook in the end. "The Valley of Elah" was well-made, but broached difficult territory perhaps best left until the real declaration of Mission Accomplished. Until "The Hurt Locker," my favorite of the Iraq War films was the unjustly maligned "Lions for Lambs" which made the simple but very true point that no matter which side you take in the argument about the war, brave soldiers are dying while the rest of us try to work it out.
"The Hurt Locker" decides not to burden itself with cumbersome, overt ideology. Instead, it opts to show the exhilaration of battle, and let the horror that accompanies that exhilaration speak for itself.
Call me prejudiced if you must, but I am dumbstruck that the most honest and brisk film about the Iraq War would come from the woman who brought us "Point Break." Yet, maybe that's precisely why it works so well. It's an action film, yes, but one that is unapologetically imbued with nightmarish realism. It is not hampered with the staginess of "Lions" nor the politicization of "Elah." The absence of these things allows "The Hurt Locker" to bring The War into a focus so sharp that it leaves a scar.
Note: As of this writing, "The Hurt Locker" is playing exclusively at Fox Tower 10 Cinemas. The wheelchair seats are wonderful in all auditoriums.