Study Guide

The Hurt Locker War


The Hurt Locker is set in post-invasion Iraq, so no surprise: war is a big theme here. Unlike in other films and books about war that you may have come across, there's not a lot of moralizing or agonizing over questions like "is this war just?" or "is it wrong to kill people?" Nope—the characters are just too busy trying to keep themselves (and the civilians around them) alive.

Some characters, like Beckham, use words like "gangster" to talk about the soldiers and what they are doing to make it all sound very macho. However, for people like Eldridge, war doesn't seem to mean much other than constant fear and the potential for horrific death. And then, of course, there's Will, who eventually becomes unable to live outside of the war zone.

Who's right? Who's wrong? That's up to you to decide.

Questions About War

  1. Do you think Will is actually addicted to war by the end? Or is it some intense feeling of responsibility that makes him want to go back to Iraq? Or both?
  2. How do you think Eldridge ended up serving? He is clearly absolutely terrified, and his fear overshadows any moral, political, or financial reasons that might have caused him to serve—so how do you think he ended up there?
  3. Do you find it surprising that a military doctor would counsel troops to view their service as potentially "fun"?
  4. Do you think the movie kind of gets behind or reinforces the notion that war is macho?

Chew on This

Will is addicted to war, which is why he can't adjust to being home. The adrenaline, the feeling that he's helping others—it all feeds the addiction.

The movie shows a lot of different perspectives on war without taking a specific stance, which adds to its documentary feel.

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