Are Hurt Locker Foes Using Troops to Take Down the Oscar Front-Runner?


Another day brings another stumbling block for The Hurt Locker in its express route to Oscar glory. But unlike the idiotic, Avatar-bashing e-mail campaign that got one of its nominated producers in deep serious with the Academy (and may cost him his ceremony tickets, eventual Academy membership and/or worse), this matter has the distinct smell of awards-season dirty tricks.

In a curiously timed dispatch in the L.A. Times, a number of military veterans and bomb-defusing specialists alleged that Locker's treatment of life in an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit was not only inaccurate but disrespectful:

Sgt. Eric Gordon of San Pedro, an Air Force EOD technician on his second tour in Iraq, has watched the movie a few times with his friends. "I would watch it with other EOD people, and we would laugh," Gordon said.

He scoffed at a scene in which a bomb is defused with wire cutters. "It's similar to having a firefighter go into a building with a squirt bottle," Gordon said.

An EOD team leader in Maysan province, Staff Sgt. Jeremy D. Phillips, said, "My interest is bringing myself and my team members home alive, with all of our appendages in the right place."

Although he was glad the film highlighted their trade, he disliked the celluloid treatment of EOD units. "There is too much John Wayne and cowboy stuff. It is very loosely based on actual events," he said. "I'm honestly glad they are trying to convey to the public what we've been doing, and I wish maybe they had just done it with a little bit of a different spin on it," he said.

I'm not about to second-guess anyone in Iraq. But I'll totally second-guess the editors who seem to have left the "Additional reporting by Harvey Weinstein in Baghdad" credit off this story. Seriously: Why is this just coming out now? Moreover, look at the intensity of the LAT's coverage of Inglourious Basterds in recent weeks, then dig through the stack of not one, not two, not three, not four, but now five Hurt Locker takedowns at the same paper -- a pair of which say virtually the same thing: Their headlines hilariously ratchet the drama from "Will The Hurt Locker team be punished for breaking Oscar rules?" to "Could The Hurt Locker be disqualified from the Oscars because of an intemperate e-mail?" -- which even that story's author acknowledges could happen but won't.

Making matters weirder, the LAT actually was late to the troop story, piling its latest report on top of Tom O'Neil's alarmist item from Wednesday headlined, "The Hurt Locker accuracy questioned." There, O'Neil linked to Newsweek and the Associated Press, both of which offered two other conveniently timed Hurt Locker broadsides of their own from essentially unassailable sources on the front lines.

Again: Why is this all happening at once? Even if you wanted to argue that it's too little too late with ballots due Tuesday at 5 p.m., it's not as though Hurt Locker is some far-and-away favorite that can't be damaged and/or even surpassed with days to go, particularly with 10 nominees and the preferential ballot now in place. Hurt Locker's errant producer has shown us himself never to put anything past an Oscar campaigner -- and he's just a rookie. Just imagine what the veterans are capable of.


  • e says:

    When did The Hurt Locker claim to be a real look at the life of an EOD team? It's a suspense/action film, not a documentary.

  • For what it's worth, here's an expert take Variety ran in a Best Picture section I edited:
    Henry Engelhardt on THE HURT LOCKER
    I was in bomb disposal for 20 years, and this was pretty accurate considering it's a movie and not a training film. The story centered on the final days of a guy over there in Iraq, with him working on his last jobs before heading home, and it showed him as a very knowledgeable and dedicated man, and as someone who's very focused -- maybe even over-focused -- on doing the job.
    It also did what I think are some very important things. It showed the relationships and the support necessary between the individuals working on bombs, and it showed that bomb disposal work is a very episodic thing. When you go out and render safe maybe 800 bombs a year, you're going out three, four times a day, and each one is different with its own hazards. Sometimes they're funny, sometimes they're just very scary situations, and "The Hurt Locker" showed all of this very clearly and handled the material well.
    Of course, no film is realistic in all its details, but the important things were done very well. And it showed things that people might say are inaccurate, like removing a flak jacket or bomb suit to work on a bomb, which happens, because if that bomb's going to explode and kill you, it doesn't really matter whether you're wearing the suit or not. But the scene where they chase terrorists down alleys? That was pure Hollywood, and it would never happen. But given the story about the kid, it was emotionally effective and worked within the movie's storyline.
    — Henry Engelhardt is an adjutant with the National Explosive Ordnance Disposal Assn.

  • Monroe says:

    Who would ever think The Hurt Locker was intended to depict real life? It was scene after scene of John Wayne swaggering, and they didn't even bother with getting to know the characters. Hurt Locker looked authentic, but the story didn't feel authentic. Fine. Neither did Predator. You need more than great sets and locations to create an Oscar worthy movie, but so often the academy is lulled into voting for looks over substance and being dazzled by technology that doesn't hold up over time (Greatest Show on Earth in Technicolor). Avatar and Hurt Locker both suffer from being superficial eye candy, but they lack any memorable substance. Where is the story? Hurt Locker was a nice little adrenaline ride. However, as a story tale it wasn't emotionally or mentally satisfying. Will we look back in 10 years and say, hey. The Hurt Locker holds up to an Oscar nom?

  • silly says:

    It´s all about letting the people believe
    The Hurt Locker is un-american. Some will
    go for it.

  • AP says:

    It's fascinating that The Hurt Locker's accuracy is questioned, while Inglorious Basterds' gleeful use of world war and mass murder merely as a story device -- let's have an adventure and kill some Nazis!! and we'll through in some Spaghetti Western music too! -- has barely been addressed.

  • Michael says:

    There was never an intention to be accurate with 'Basterds', its entire premise was based on the idea of propaganda and altering history. 'The Hurt Locker' however, is being called the "Best Film about Iraq". There's a difference there... No one is going to question the accuracy of Avatar or Up, but they WILL bring it up when discussing 'The Hurt Locker'. It's bound to happen when you film in a documentary-like style and focus on current events.

  • XKarenX says:

    Thanks for this. The attempt to sandbag Hurt Locker at the last minute is obvious. Will it work? I hope all the films will be judged on their own merits. (But why should things change now)? I was shocked Bigelow's film even got a nod. It won lots of other awards & won big at the influential BAFTAS, half the actors are Brits now, so maybe Hurt Locker will actually win.

  • Chris Rohrer says:

    When did The Hurt Locker claim to be a real look at the life of an EOD team? It's a suspense/action film, not a documentary (posted by From e
    Posted 26 Feb 2010, 9:44 AM)
    It became a problem with me (an Iraqi War Vet) when I saw the interview with the director saying that "this movie was done to be as accurate as possible and for the viewer to feel like they were the 4th team member". There were sooooo many things wrong with this movie an not even close on how things are.

  • I'm not going to lie I ? DOG!

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