My Interview with the writer of "The Hurt Locker"

John Hanlon

8/2/2009 12:11:00 AM - John Hanlon
Unlike other movies about the war in Iraq that have been openly criticized by many conservatives, the film "The Hurt Locker" is getting numerous positive reviews from liberals and conservatives alike. (To check out my thoughts on the movie, click here.) Because of the positive reaction from some conservatives about this film and the uniqueness of the film's subject, "The Hurt Locker" stands as a interesting contrast to the other Iraq war movies that have been released (many to limited success) over the past few years.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Mark Boal, the writer and the producer of "The Hurt Locker", over the phone about his newest project. During the conversation, Boal and I spoke about the film's unique subject material, his experiences in Iraq and the reviews that his new film has received.  

"The Hurt Locker" is the story of the day to day activities of a bomb squad in Iraq. The movie is focused on the daily activities of the members of a bomb squad fighting in the war and not on the war itself. Boal called his focus on the bomb squad a "somewhat novel subject for people" and he also stated that not that much has been written about the bomb squads in Iraq and the work that they do every day in dismantling these deadly weapons.

In late 2004, Boal was in Iraq for several weeks as a reporter where he spent time with a bomb squad stationed there. From his experiences in Iraq, he told me that working on a bomb squad is "one of the most dangerous jobs in the military" and he spoke to me about the immense courage that the members of the bomb squad showed on the battlefield. He also told me that all of the people on the bomb squad he interacted with had volunteered for what he called that "incredibly dangerous job." 

In regards to the politics behind releasing a movie about the war in Iraq, Boal simply said that he is "concerned with telling the story I want to tell... let the chips fall where they may." In the case of this movie, the reviews have been pretty extraordinary. As I noted previosly, some conservatives have been highlighting this film in the past several weeks. Former managing editor of Townhall magazine Catherine Favazza recently wrote that "The Hurt Locker warrants praise for bringing to America's attention the few who carry the unspeakable burden of disarming bombs. That transcends politics." Hot Air's Ed Morrissey wrote that "Unlike all of the other films about Iraq, The Hurt Locker does not take a position on the politics of the war; instead, it focuses on high-tension situations for an occupying force and the populace, and the dangers of fighting an insurgency."

There is a controversial quote from Chris Hedges shown at the begining of the movie that ends with the phrase "war is a drug." I spoke to Boal about that quote and the idea that some critics have seen that quote as a framework for defining some of the characters in the movie. Boal noted that his characters have more dimensionality than that one quote. The quote, to him, was just a good starting point for the movie.

"Movies should not be simple", Boal said, and surely the complexity of the subject material in "The Hurt Locker" and the ideas explored in it attest to the fact that Boal's new film surely meets that criteria.