OPINION | What “The Hurt Locker” gets wrong about soldiers in Iraq


As a soldier who served in Iraq I appreciate any effort to tell the story of those who serve there, especially the truly brave souls who serve in Explosive Ordnance Disposal. The problem here is that it appears that the makers of the movie The Hurt Locker made no effort to portray what is really going on there. When a movie about a war is this inaccurate, it tells the military: “What you’re actually doing isn’t interesting enough to make a movie, but we’re cool with using people’s good will towards you to generate interest in our movie.”

Here are just a few of the most glaring inaccuracies in this movie. The EOD team travels everywhere alone. No US military vehicle travels anywhere alone in Iraq. The current policy is a minimum of three vehicles any time someone travels “outside the wire.” Every time I saw EOD (approximately 30-40 times) they travelled in vehicles much larger than humvees and escorted by three to four humvees.

In the movie three men drink together and make a game of punching each other in the abdomen. Bored soldiers do crazy things but this stereotypical testosterone-charged game is constantly shown in military movies and just plain doesn’t happen. Soldiers are more complicated than this and find much more creative ways to cause trouble in their down time.

No one in EOD takes off their bomb suit and disarms bombs in Iraq with their bare hands. If they ever did it would be after they had tried every other possible measure. In this movie, a senior officer sees this cowboy disarm a bomb against all judgment and can’t wait to congratulate him. Most senior officers would have ensured that this particular soldier didn’t get anywhere near explosives for quite some time. Also, the only depiction of a senior officer in the Army is this Lieutenant Colonel who is starstruck by a guy with no concept of teamwork or procedure.

This movie also makes use of the annoying and all-too-common assumption that if someone’s past has included time with the CIA or military intelligence, he or she is capable of superhuman acts and is an expert with anything that can kill. This is just not the case.

One character in this movie is referred to as having been in military intelligence. The majority of personnel serving in military intelligence are analysts or operators of highly sophisticated intelligence-gathering equipment. They are dedicated servicemembers with a vital mission; they are not superhuman. In this movie, either experience in military intelligence or in his EOD training, one character has somehow learned to expertly operate a Barret .50 caliber rifle. It is more likely that someone with his experience and training would be about as accurate with this rifle in his first encounter with it as me throwing watermelons.

I could go on for quite some time but I think I’ve made my point.

Jeremy Renner is one of my favorite actors, and I thought he was great. The visuals were excellent. If you don’t know the military, I can see how this movie does a good job of creating suspense. I just don’t think it’s okay to play so free and loose with reality, especially when dealing with soldiers. We love the support we are getting from the American people and we want our story told, but it is very important that to this particular soldier that it be told accurately.