Kathryn Bigelow’s 2008 film The Hurt Locker is widely regarded as one of the best war movies of recent years, and with good reason: it’s intelligent, it’s thought provoking and it highlights – as Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse now did of the Vietnam conflict – that soldiers of the Iraq War were often damaged in more ways than were first apparent.
The first trailer has been released for Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow’s next film, which focuses on the special forces mission to capture (and eventually kill) Osama Bin Laden. It’s a fascinating subject, and doubtless the film will draw in huge numbers when it’s finally released – the provisional release date being in December of this year. But you have to ask: is it too soon to be making this movie? Bin Laden was killed on the May 2, 2011, and news that the film had been greenlit started to appear on May 25, just three weeks later. Admittedly Bigelow had been working on the idea for a number of years previously, but it was quickly altered to include recent events. Hollywood works fast when it’s on to a winner.
Some will argue that there have already been a number of films to talk about Osama Bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks. What about United 93? World Trade Centre? Fahrenheit 9/11? Was it too soon for these films?
But the problem with comparing these two films is that they are, I think based on very different things. The first step to moving on from a tragedy is to acknowledge what has happened, and in the years following the attacks these films were cathartic; they helped the American people (and the wider world) to come to terms with what had happened and begin to heal.
But, as hard as it is to believe, the tragic events of 9/11 are now over a decade away, and the building of Freedom Tower and the memorials beneath it prove that, while we don’t (and nor can we ever) forget what happened, we have started to moved on. And while the news of Bin Laden’s death undoubtedly brings an extra degree of closure to those who were affected most by the events of that day – those who lost family members, lovers or friends – making it into a Hollywood movie seems, at this early stage, like triumphant American chest-beating.
Even though the decision was recently made to release the film after the upcoming presidential elections in order to avoid any political controversy, it’s easy to see how many will still see this movie as pro-Obama propaganda, subtly reminding everybody who ordered the attack that proved to be the killing blow.
I’m not saying this film should never be made; the War on Terror is an important part of our modern history, and any movie that discusses it should definitely be given due consideration. But maybe it would be best if we waited a few months, maybe a year, so that the subject doesn’t seem quite so raw, and we can look at this film as something more than a late re-election video for Barack Obama.