Irak/7e: L’un des plus efficaces films de recrutement pour l’Armée américaine que j’ai jamais vu (The Hurt locker as propaganda)

US Army poster
The Hurt locker (poster)
Le placard à douleurs est un terme utilisé dans la formation de base! Quand une jeune recrue avait dépassé les bornes (à l’époque où le contact physique était encore autorisé), le sergent instructeur vous coinçait littéralement dans un placard où il vous frappait copieusement et vous ne pouviez ni sortir ni éviter les coups. Major américain à la retraite
L’Irak (…) pourrait être l’un des grands succès de cette administration. Joe Biden (10.02.10)
Alors, l’Irak, c’est quoi au juste aujourd’hui? Est-ce un brillant effort de l’Armée américaine qui a déposé Saddam, vaincu une insurrection, aidé à éliminer des milliers de terroristes d’Al-Qaeda et aidé à accoucher un gouvernement consensuel et viable ? Ou est-ce toujours la « guerre de Bush » qui, par on ne sait quel mystérieux et pourtant implicite processus, s’est transformé en « plus grand succès » d’Obama? Victor Davis Hanson
Ce que j’aime dans ce film c’est qu’il montre d’abord la camaraderie que cela nécessite, la tension, le risque inhérent à certaines des choses que nous faisons là-bas. Je suis sûr que certains vont dire que cela pourrait être plus exact par moments, mais je pense que c’est une bonne représentation du sacrifice et du dévouement qui sont requis ici. Les gens ne comprennent pas à quel point l’environnement est complexe ici depuis ces dernières années. Général Raymond Odierno (commandant américain en Irak)
Cette surenchère d’effets de style rappelle le pire de Tony Scott. (…) La guerre est une drogue, donc (…) et le film une overdose de testostérones mal contrôlées. Première
Un boucher irakien tient un téléphone portable près de l’emplacement d’une bombe – ou un engin explosif improvisé, comme on les appelle dans The Hurt locker, le nouveau film et succès critique sur les soldats en Irak. Les Américains crient au boucher de poser le téléphone par terre et pointent leurs armes vers lui; il sourit et fait signe de la tête d’une manière rassurante pour leur montrer que tout va bien. Puis, il appuie sur un bouton du téléphone portable et fait exploser la bombe, tuant un des soldats.
A partir de ce moment, le spectateur que vous êtes ne peut que sympathiser avec les soldats risquant leur vie à chaque instant sur les routes ou les ruelles de Bagdad truffées de pièges, ne voyant dans les hommes, femmes et enfants irakiens qui les entourent que des terroristes potentiels. De même que les films d’horreur américains ont basculé à un certain moment en invitant le spectateur à prendre le point de vue du tueur traquant la victime plutôt que la perspective de la victime échappant au psychopathe, The Hurt locker vous place clairement dans la tête d’un soldat sur le point de tuer quelqu’un. (…)
Malgré la violence la plus crue, les explosions sanglantes et, littéralement, la boucherie humaine qui y est montrée, The Hurt locker est l’un des plus efficaces films de recrutement pour l’Armée américaine que j’ai jamais vu. Tara McKelvey (American prospect)

Après les viols et les massacres de Redacted (Brian de Palma), les bavures de Battle for Haditha (Nick Broomfield), les séquelles du conflit irakien sur les jeunes recrues, l’idéologie militariste et le patriotisme aveugle de Dans la vallée d’Elah (Paul Haggis-Mark Boal), les troubles agissements et sombres machinations de la CIA de Mensonges d’Etat (Ridley Scott), Jeux de pouvoir (Kevin MacDonald), Détention secrète (Gavin Hood) et The Green zone (Paul Greengrass) …

Et alors qu’avec l’odeur de la victoire et oubliant commodément leurs années d’invectives, pages d’éditoriaux au vitriol et films assassins sur la légitimité de la présence américaine en Irak ou sur le bien fondé de la guerre, nos politiciens comme nos médias et Hollywood lui-même, se ruent à présent comme un seul homme pour saluer et oscariser le « placard à douleurs » (traduit platement en français par « Démineurs ») de Kathryn Bigelow et du journaliste embarqué Mark Boal

A lire d’urgence…

Ce rare article critique (avec la courageuse critique de Première), dans l’un des Monde diplomatique américains (The American prospect) sur (le commandant des forces américaines en Irak ne vient-il pas lui-même de le confirmer?) l’un des plus efficaces films de recrutement pour l’Armée américaine que j’ai jamais vu

The Hurt Locker as Propaganda
For a supposedly anti-war film, Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker serves as a remarkably effective military recruiting tool.
Tara McKelvey
The American prospect
July 17, 2009

An Iraqi butcher holds a cell phone as he stands near the site of a bomb — or an improvised explosive devise (IED), as it is known in The Hurt Locker, the critically acclaimed new movie about soldiers in Iraq. The Americans shout at the butcher to put the phone down and point their guns; he smiles and waves back, nodding his head reassuringly to show them everything is fine. Then he presses a button on the cell phone and detonates a bomb, killing one of the soldiers.

From that point on, you, as viewer, sympathize with the soldiers as they travel along dangerous roads and walk through Baghdad’s narrow allies, seeing all of the Iraqi men, women and children around them as potential terrorists. Just as American horror movies shifted at some point in time and invited the moviegoer to take on the point of view of the killer tracking down the victim, rather than the perspective of the victim fleeing from a psychopath, The Hurt Locker places the viewer squarely in the mindset of a soldier on the verge of shooting someone. That said, you don’t necessarily always want the soldiers to shoot. There are times when you, like the soldiers in the film, wonder what the right choice is, such as when a suspicious-looking man stands on top of a building with a video camera and films the dismantling of a bomb. He looks like someone who might be involved in the planting of an IED, but you can’t be sure.

In general, though, you feel empathy for the soldiers when they shoot. And in this way, the full impact of the Iraq war — at least as it was fought in 2004 — becomes clear: American soldiers shot at Iraqi civilians even when, for example, they just happened to be holding a cell phone and standing near an IED, as Colin H. Kahl, a military analyst and Obama administration official, wrote in International Security. Even more chillingly, as Kahl explained, a U.S. commander once ordered that all middle-aged Iraqi men in a certain area could be shot.

The Hurt Locker shows the paranoia, rage, and brutal recklessness of soldiers trapped in the downward death spiral of the Iraq war: Insurgents used IEDs in a diabolical fashion so that all Iraqis seemed complicit in the violence, particularly since many were aware of the location of the bombs. Yet the bystanders said nothing — most likely because they feared reprisals from the insurgent leaders — and, consequently, the American soldiers turned with a vengeance on the very people they had once attempted to liberate.

The Hurt Locker sets itself up as an anti-war film. It opens with a quote, « War is a drug, » from Chris Hedges, a Nation Institute senior fellow and author of War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning. Yet for more than two hours, the film imbues Baghdad’s combat zone with excitement and drama. In one scene, a bomb-defuser, Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner), searches for a detonator in a car loaded with explosives, and later he tries to save an unfortunate Iraqi man who has been forcibly strapped with homemade bombs. The tense moments are set to creepily compelling music selected by composers Marco Beltrami (he did the scores for the Scream series) and Buck Sanders, and the cinematography captures the beauty that is found in the desert landscape and even in the casing of a bullet. It is easy to understand why the soldier, William James, would take so much pleasure in his work as a daredevil bomb-defuser in Iraq, and find so little to be happy about in the difficult, messy world of America when he comes home.

Back in the United States, James finds himself in a supermarket aisle, trying to decide between Lucky Charms and Cheerios. He stares at those brands and then at dozens of others on the shelves, feeling overwhelmed by the dizzying array of breakfast cereals, in a scene of American consumerism gone amuck. He then spends part of the day cleaning soggy leaves out of the gutter of his house. It is a dull, dreary world. A moment later, however, a soldier is shown striding down a wide, dusty Iraqi road in a NASA-like bomb suit, filled with a sense of purpose, courage, and even nobility that does not exist in suburban America.

The film draws a sharp contrast between the tedium of American life, with its grocery-shopping, home repairs, and vapid consumerism, and the heart-pounding drama of the combat zone in Iraq. The fact that the war itself seems to have little point fades into the background. For all the graphic violence, bloody explosions and, literally, human butchery that is shown in the film, The Hurt Locker is one of the most effective recruiting vehicles for the U.S. Army that I have seen.

Voir aussi:

Le commandant américain en Irak a aimé le film oscarisé « Démineurs »
Le Monde/AFP
10.03.10

Le commandant des troupes américaines en Irak a fait l’éloge mardi du film « Démineurs », sacré à la cérémonie des Oscars de Hollywood, estimant qu’à la différence d’une partie de la couverture médiatique, il montrait les complexités du terrain.

Le général Raymond Odierno a expliqué qu’il avait vu l’an dernier une copie de « Démineurs », un drame intense et chargé d’adrénaline qui suit le quotidien de trois soldats démineurs en Irak. Le film a obtenu six Oscars dimanche, dont celui du meilleur film et de la meilleure réalisatrice pour Kathryn Bigelow.

« Ce que j’aime dans ce film c’est qu’il montre d’abord la camaraderie que cela nécessite, la tension, le risque inhérent à certaines des choses que nous faisons là-bas », a dit le général, interviewé par la télévision publique PBS.

« Je suis sûr que certains vont dire que cela pourrait être plus exact par moments, mais je pense que c’est une bonne représentation du sacrifice et du dévouement qui sont requis ici », a-t-il déclaré depuis Bagdad.

Le général Odierno a par ailleurs ajouté qu’il n’était pas un critique facile à satisfaire et qu’il était souvent déçu de certains films ou de la couverture médiatique des opérations américaines en Irak.

« Les gens ne comprennent pas à quel point l’environnement est complexe ici depuis ces dernières années », a-t-il dit. « Je ne pense pas qu’ils comprennent ce que le fait d’agir dans un tel environnement exige de la part de ces jeunes gens et de ces jeunes femmes ».

Les soldats américains « s’en sortent extrêmement bien pour équilibrer la non-violence et la violence, pour déterminer qui est un ennemi et qui est un allié, qui essaie de vous tuer et qui n’essaie pas de le faire », a-t-il souligné.

Voir enfin:

Review: The Hurt Locker
Army of Dude
July 22, 2009

Warning: There are minor spoilers below. Read at your own risk.

Enjoying a good war movie after you’ve been there, done that requires a bit of finesse. The casual moviegoer doesn’t watch closely for errors in rank, patches, vernacular or procedure. They simply want to be entertained for a couple of hours. A veteran, conversely, is tortured with an onslaught of technical blunders that the average viewer will miss. Filmmakers must walk a tightrope to appease both sides; technical and accurate enough for the discriminating military crowd but still accessible to viewers who don’t know the difference between CAS and SAF. So far, no Iraq-themed movies have walked that fine line. The bar has been set ridiculously low; Redacted, the reigning champ of tasteless war movies, makes Stop Loss look like A Bridge Too Far. But don’t let the sad state of Iraq movies keep you away from the cineplex this week. Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is not without its narrative problems, but it’s a solid and dramatic entry that can satisfy both sides of the fence.

The story follows a three man team of EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) techs in the final month of their deployment in Baghdad in 2004. The team is headed by SSG James (Jeremy Renner), a reckless cowboy that routinely puts his life and the lives of his men in constant danger. The movie’s epitaph lingers on the screen long after the words fade. War is a drug. It is clear from James’ first mission that he feeds off the adrenaline rush of bomb defusing at any cost. When he should be wearing his suit or utilizing a remote-driven robot, James goes right for his clippers, wearing nothing more than his uniform. His two subordinates, Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghy), quickly grow weary of James’ vigilante ways. As James becomes more cavalier with his work, the calendar slowly crawls toward the date they are supposed to redeploy. Sanborn and Eldridge briefly discuss fragging James to save their own skins. With James in charge, they figure, it’s only a matter of time before they get killed.

The way the team goes about their missions is completely absurd. The three men drive alone, all over Baghdad and its periphery, in a single Humvee. No escorts, no convoy, just a gun truck and three soldiers. To leave a FOB in the real world, you need a minimum of three trucks, and even that is stretching it. In one scene, the solitary truck arrives on an empty street where soldiers should be setting a cordon. James, puzzled by an empty Humvee in the road, finds an infantry platoon hunkered down in a courtyard like a box full of helpless puppies. One of them manages to point him in the direction of a suspected VBIED. Only then do soldiers beyond the EOD trio emerge to cordon off the area and evacuate local Iraqis.

In a later scene, James leaves the base by himself to confront an Iraqi man about a local boy that peddles DVDs on the base. I had to bite my tongue from erupting in laughter when James, left by his hostage taxi driver, had to run all the way back to base dressed in fatigues and a sweatshirt. He couldn’t have been more obvious if he had shot his pistol into the air and shouted, « COME AND GET ME! » His life expectancy would have been measured in seconds by that point.

I understand why Bigelow kept scenes mostly free of extras. The audience can only take so many characters in combat gear before they all start looking the same. Directing EOD to a possible bomb is tricky and cumbersome in combat. Striving for complete accuracy by showing each step of the way would bog down a movie that relies on suspenseful and a fluid narrative. The time between finding an IED and its eventual destruction can flow into hours of tedium that climax into a few moments of spectacular explosions. The script is taut and disciplined, willing to trim away the superfluous moments and get to the core of what EOD techs do. The rest of the war drops away in the margins and the audience is left with the essence of three men doing incredibly dangerous work. There is no war, or even earth, beyond the cordon. Just three soldiers left to tinker with homemade destruction.

My chief complaint about the film is that it goes too far with this view. Besides a scene with a team of mercenaries, the team is alone outside the wire constantly. Civilians can overlook that, but those with field experience might be rolling their eyes at yet another scene involving James cutting the right wire just in time. I’ve seen dozens of controlled detonations, and I can’t think of any that had an EOD tech waltzing up to the bomb to clip wires. That’s what the robot is for. It does happen, but not as frequently as the writer has you believe.

In one of the final scenes, the team is called out to assess the damage of a VBIED detonation. James spots a possible escape route for the triggerman, and in a wildly implausible decision, takes his team into three separate alleys in the dead of night. Shockingly, one of the men is nearly carted off by militants. Instead of a close call changing the way James thinks about his leadership, he keeps on with his reckless self. In the end he learns nothing. Of course, who knows what happens when he comes back to the FOB to find a stack of Article 15s.

I don’t think it was out of neglect that such unrealistic moments crept into a generally realistic movie. I applaud the efforts of the technical advisers that worked on this film. The movement of the soldiers, particularly inside an IED factory, was textbook perfect. They operated in concert, double clearing hallways and moving with an air of urgency and flow. Combat scenes from Home of the Brave and Redacted looked like they were filmed in Brian de Palma’s backyard. The Hurt Locker, filmed in Jordan, has an authentic feeling that is light years ahead of any Iraq movie released. They nailed the environment, the crushing paranoia of watching Iraqi bystanders eyeballing you, everything.

Toward the end of the film, James is back home, crippled with Sudden Civilian Syndrome. He gazes at a wall of breakfast cereals in a grocery store, confounded about the sheer amount of choice. It is here where we see James suffering from combat withdrawal. In Iraq he was on his game, disarming bombs with a few snips. The EOD suit he wears is his real skin. When it comes off, he’s an alien on a planet he doesn’t understand. As he explains to his infant son, there is only one thing he loves in the world. His body is home safe, but his heart and mind are still in the desert.

The (few) criticisms I’ve read are largely without merit. From Breitbart’s Big Hollywood, dueling bozos of bromance Alexander Marlow and John Nolte both decry the characterization of Iraqis in the movie. This is a part of the narrative that should follow reality as close as possible, and it succeeds for the most part. Outside the wire, you shake kid’s hands, you kick around a soccer ball and you act like a decent human being. But not for one second should your guard come down when it comes to the locals. Nolte feigns outrage about a scene involving a taxi driver running a roadblock. After a tense standoff, a soldier takes down the driver and violently handcuffs him. With what I imagine is a straight face, Nolte takes umbrage with the quote, « If he wasn’t an insurgent, he sure as hell is now. » Man, that was a favorite joke of mine! I said that about a man who owned a courtyard where I found two Molotov cocktails. Moments before he opened his trunk for us. It was full of whiskey, a rarity to see in a Muslim country. We laughed and pretended to stumble around drunk, but after I found those cocktails and the IP shoved his face into a brick wall, we weren’t laughing anymore. I joked that next time, there would be a spring loaded boxing glove that came out.

Nolte doesn’t realize that most people weren’t too happy to see us, or consider the possibility that combat operations are a societal irritant. No, that is too complex a notion. He just decides to phone it in as a liberal slight and call it a day. There must be a shortage of veterans in West Hollywood (tip: if someone describes their residence with a cardinal direction, they probably have a gargantuan chip on their shoulder). Nolte could have passed his hissy fit about Iraqis to someone who knew what they were talking about. Quoth the Noltmeister: « The [Iraqi] men are alternately terrorists, a menacing presence, victims, the butt of jokes or utterly clueless. » The movie is about guys who go find bombs buried in the road. What kind of person lingers around that environment John? You guessed it. Terrorists, menacing civilians, victims and clueless people.

I can agree with Marlow and Nolte that the order from a full bird to let an insurgent bleed to death is out of place, poorly staged and irrelevant to the plot. I could see what they were going for, but it translated horribly to the screen. Things like that do happen, as some of you might remember (long story short: we watched some insurgents bleed to death, and we watched a blindfolded guy die in slow agony after his house exploded and fell on top of him). A field grade officer ordering his men to let an insurgent bleed out is over the line though, and should have been left on the cutting room floor.

It’s a shame some people can’t look past their narrow view to enjoy the best Iraq movie to date. Though flawed with a serious case of the WTFs, The Hurt Locker more than makes up for it with technical prowess and unbelievably tense moments. In the only theater in Austin currently playing the movie, I heard a steady stream of gasps and « Oh shit! » moments in a nearly packed house. That kind of audience involvement is a testament to how well crafted the story is, regardless of the basic absurdity of the plot. General moviegoers will have plenty to rave about, and seasoned vets can walk away satisfied if they willfully suspend their disbelief for a couple of hours. I’m sure your wife or girlfriend won’t mind that you stop whispering « That totally wouldn’t happen » every five minutes.

2 Responses to Irak/7e: L’un des plus efficaces films de recrutement pour l’Armée américaine que j’ai jamais vu (The Hurt locker as propaganda)

  1. Aussie Shield dit :

    Thanks , great blog . Good Infomation .

    Cheers Bill

    J'aime

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