Think you’re not a sexist? Want to know for certain? When the film The Hurt Locker opens in your town (it’s in limited release in Los Angeles and New York now, opens in 17 more cities on July 10 and goes nationwide July 24), go see it. See if you don’t say, when it’s over: “I don’t believe a woman directed this movie.”

At the Seattle International Film Festival.

And then imagine that she’s a 58-year-old woman, not someone reared in the can-do-anything world of post-feminist film school education.

The Hurt Locker is a story about what war does to men and also a story of how men form wars. It’s the story of an elite Army Explosive Ordinance Device team — and of one technician in particular. It’s about courage and the absence of fear and about how “everybody is a coward about something.”

The Hurt Locker feels more like a documentary than a scripted film. It feels as though the woman who directed it walked around inside the heads of the men whose story she tells. It is stunning, difficult and muscular.

The film is haunting and insists that attention be paid to what being in Baghdad means — what it means to the men who are fighting there (and, by extension, the enlisted women, though none are in evidence on screen), and what it means to us as a nation.

A 58-year-old woman made this movie. Someone banked on her to get the suspense, the horror, the gore and the testosterone right. Lots of people listened to her while she was directing and, for that reason, we have a document of war that really must be seen for the truth there, both about what happens in the fields of battle and on the mind’s battlefields. (For more on Kathryn Bigelow, check out this Q&A at Slate/

It’s a movie that should be shown to anyone who hopes to make movies and to anyone who hopes to understand what makes a good movie. It’s an achievement that stands as testament to what humans can do — both in the story and in the telling of it. It’s quite simply an amazing accomplishment.

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