The Hurt Locker: War is a Drug
The Hurt Locker begins with, and is wholly contextualised by, a quote from Chris Hedges’ book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002). ‘The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction for war is a drug’. After a few moments, the majority of the text fades away leaving only the last four words, ‘war is a drug’, and remains there for a further few moments. Bigelow defines the meaning of the quote through her description of the book, explaining it as one in which Hedges
talks about that you’re looking today at a volunteer military and one of the many things he confronts is war’s dirty little secret in [that] some men love it. This isn’t everybody; it’s just a particular type of psychological state with some men. There’s a psychological allure that combat creates, some kind of attractiveness, and it does create an almost additive quality that you can’t replicate in any other way and are lost in any other context. (Axmaker, 2010)
As a context for the film, the quote becomes quite literal for it clearly defines James’ emotional and psychological relationship to his employment as a bomb disposal expert – he is addicted to all aspects of this role: disposing bombs in an increasingly dramatic (and perhaps theatrical) manner, saving lives of both his men and civilians, acting alone in order to continually push himself and, ultimately, to be good enough each time to ‘cheat’ death once more. As a consequence, the quote, quite literally, states that James’ is addicted to war but, on a more complex level, indicates that James’ is addicted to a repeated confrontation with his mortality. Each IED to be disarmed challenges him to gamble, with the highest stakes possible, his skill and ability to perform under pressure against both an incredibly violent but inanimate object and an equally threatening but unseen enemy.
This edition of Splice can be ordered from Auteur Publishing by following this link.