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    Film Analysis – The Hurt Locker Essay

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    When the bomb technician Will James comes to the Bravo Company in Iraq, his teammates don’t know anything about him. They can only start knowing him from what he says and what he does. One teammate Sanborn thinks that James is a person who likes to act alone. Sanborn uses his experience and what he has seen from James to get the perception that James is a ‘redneck trailer trash’. This is an example of “perception” (the process of attending to, organizing, and interpreting the information that we receive through our senses, page 38).

    Also, when James first comes to the team, before his first mission, another teammate Owen thinks that James is just a new guy. Owen tries to scare James by saying it’s very dangerous in Iraq. But James replies that he has seen a lot in Afghanistan, which is also a very dangerous place. Owen then realizes that his perception of James is not right. This is an example of “perception check” (sharing one’s perception of another’s behavior to see if the interpretation is accurate, page 49). Without knowing too much about James, Owen just uses his words to test if James is like what he perceives.

    James buys DVDs from an Iraqi boy; he likes the boy and plays soccer with him. But the boy later is killed by terrorists. James believes the boy’s boss is a spy. Even another soldier tells him that all the merchants in that area are checked, he still believes what he wants to believe: the boss must be a bad guy. Then he follows the person and tries to find who is responsible. This is an example of “selective perception” (distortion that arises from paying attention only to what we expect to see or hear and from ignoring what we don’t expect, page 45).

    James is so sad and his feelings distort his perception, he just sees the DVD man suspicious even that man acts just normally. James and his wife divorced. But his wife didn’t leave him and when James goes back to U. S, they still live together as a happy family. They do shopping together and cooking together. But James is somehow feeling empty at home. He tells his little son that he only has one thing left that he loves, which I think it is his job as the bomb technician. At the beginning of the film, there is a quote from Chris Hedges, ‘war is a drug’.

    War is a need in James’ life; he is addicted to it just like an addiction to drug. So he gives up his wife and his son and everything else and chooses to go back to Iraq. James’ feeling is an example of “needs theory” (things people consciously or unconsciously feel they require to sustain them biologically or psychologically, page 39). Area 2 – Relationship James is assigned to the team but he likes to work alone. His behaviors causes a lot troubles for his teammates, and some behaviors even put his teammates in danger.

    But his teammates have no choice but to accept him as the team member, because James is assigned by the upper level and his teammates can’t control who is sent to their team. This is an example of, “involuntary relationship,” (a relationship in which we have no choice about the other people with whom we interact, page 163). Although at the beginning, James’ teammates don’t like him, they still gather together in the evening and drink together and chat with each other about their personal lives.

    This is an example of “interpersonal needs theory” (the premise that all of us have inclusion, affection, and control needs that we try to meet through our relationships, although our need for each of these varies in degree from person to person, page 176). The soldiers are also normal people; they have their feelings and affections and they need the regular social connections with each other. In one scene, Owen gets caught by enemies, James and Sanborn risk their lives to rescue him.

    This is an example of “commitment” (a dimension of relationships that gauges how dedicated or loyal partner are to each other, page 165). As teammates, they have this commitment to watch each other’s back. In the movie, on their last mission, it is very dangerous. Sanborn and James almost get killed. Although Sanborn looks very strong and tough most of the time, after the mission is over, Sanborn is very scared and he tells James that he is afraid and he doesn’t want to die. Such feeling is very personal and private, but he shares with his teammate.

    This is an example of “self-disclosure” (verbally sharing personal, private information, and feelings, page 168). Also, he says that he wants to have a child, and also says ‘I am done’. This is an example of “turning point” (any event or occurrence that marks a relationship’s transition from one stage to another, page 172). I believe Sanborn will retire from the army and lives a normal life after that. James had a wife and they have a little kid. But he and his wife divorced. Probably James knew his work is too dangerous, and his future is very uncertain.

    He did this to give his wife another chance to live a normal life. However his wife chose not to leave him. For his wife, their relationship is an example of the, “voluntary relationship,” (a relationship in which we freely choose the people, with whom we interact, page 163). Area 3 – Verbal Messages In one scene, an officer comes to talk to Owen about his feelings. The officer tries to give some psychological help to Owen. But he doesn’t talk straight about his purpose, he just asks how the soldier feels and if he wants to talk to someone.

    This is an example of “indirect verbal style” (message language that masks the speaker’s true intentions and roundabout, vague message content whose real meaning is embedded in the social or cultural context, page 121). The officer doesn’t want to irritate his solder so he uses some subtle way to talk to Owen. But Owen realizes the intention of his officer and he replies very directly by just saying he is fine. His style is an example of “direct verbal style” (message language that openly states the speaker’s intention and message content that is straightforward and unambiguous, page 121).

    I think the difference between the officer and the soldier is because their experiences are different: this officer most of the time dealing with some management work, he needs to be more thoughtful; while Owen is a field soldier, he is used to being simple and direct. In many scene of disarming the bombs outside the UN building, while James is focusing on the bombs, his teammates are guarding him. His teammates communicate with each other over the radio to get very detailed information about the surrounding situation.

    They use very specific words to identify people and locations. This is an example of, “precise words,” (words that identify a smaller grouping within a larger category, page 111). In a situation like this, communications have to be very detailed. Using precise words can improve the clarity so teammates know exactly what’s happening, it’s about life and death in the battle field. Area 4 – Nonverbal Messages When the soldiers are on mission, sometimes they can’t make any sound, but they still have to communicate with each other, so they use gestures.

    In many scenes in this movie, we can see a lot of examples of such “nonverbal communication” (all human communication events that transcend spoken or written words, page 131). After James disarms the bombs outside the UN building, an officer asks how many bombs he has disarmed. While hearing that James has disarmed over 800 bombs, this officer raises his eye brows and looks surprised and unbelievable. This is an example of, “facial expression,” (arranging facial muscles to communicate emotion or provide feedback, page 137).

    The officer uses his facial expressions to show his applications and also gives praises to James. In another scene, while James is preparing to disarm the bomb, a taxi runs into the restricted area. James draws his gun and stops the taxi, but the taxi driver wouldn’t get out of the car. James and the driver look at each other in the eye for a long time, none of them show any fear. This is an example of, “eye contact,” (using eye focus to signal attention, respect, emotional reactions, or dominance, page 136). In this scene, both of them want to use the eye contact to defeat the counterpart.

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