Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Strange symmetry

The last two evenings I've stayed up late watching the Chaplin classic Modern Times and the recent Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker. These two films have absolutely nothing in common except they both end with a strikingly similar shot of the hero walking off into the figurative sunset.

In the first shot it's the Little Tramp exiting with his cinematic (and real-life) gamine Paulette Goddard on his arm. In the second example it's Sergeant First Class James (played by Jeremy Renner) walking off to disarm yet another IED. Was director Kathryn Bigelow paying homage to Chaplin? I very much doubt it. But these are the trivial things that keep me up at night.

For a fine substantive treatment of The Hurt Locker click over to my friend redeyespy's blog. He begins his review by highlighting the aspect of the movie I found most fascinating.

Ever since I heard New York Times journalist Chris Hedges on Fresh Air on NPR one afternoon I began to think differently about war. "The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug." His quote opens THE HURT LOCKER, winner of Best Picture of 2009.War is a drug. Curious. It was odd to think that someone would deliberately put themselves in and return to a hellish battleground. Crave it, even. I've never been in any armed force, never been in battle. Most soldiers I've known and read about wanted to get the hell out of a war as quickly as possible. Then I thought about the medical personnel who crave the excitement of a frantic Emergency Room. Policemen who long for street action. Even those old newspaper folks who loved the adrenaline of a looming deadline. It is a specific personality type. Cutting within a fraction of a second, getting close to the fire. Those people will not have it any other way.

They may also find that when life is not so urgent, a sense of purpose is lost. The comparatively humdrum existences of the human race can't match the thrill. The hardest adaptation for a soldier isn't to a freezing foxhole or a sweltering desert, but a listless week of staring at the multitude of choices in a grocery store.

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