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Headscratchers / The Hurt Locker

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  • What was up with the sniper battle? The scene had me scratching my head for a couple of reasons.(1) Why did nobody come to help the good guys while they were pinned down? The British contractors called for help, and were told to sit tight. By the end of this scene, many hours had passed but they were still alone. (2) What were the Iraqi snipers doing the whole time? After they quickly kill the first three Brits, they don't fire again. The whole time Sanborn is getting set up with the Barret, and while they were cleaning the bullets, the enemy never fires another shot. When that random insurgent sneaks up behind everyone, he just sights on the good guys but doesn't fire, giving Eldritch all day to decide to shoot. (3) How many enemies were there exactly? It looked like there were two on the roof of the shack, two inside, and one prone guy a few meters away from the shack. The number of enemies killed didn't look the same as the number of enemies total.
    • 0: You are completely correct, this scene is one of the worst Critical Research Failures in a movie full of them.
    • 1: Yes, the Brits called for help. No one came because the EOD team didn't call for assistance; Eldridge was too busy with security, James was on the scope, and Sanborn was sniping. None of them had time or thought to radio in assistance.
      • In a hostile evironment like this, radioing for assistance means it comes fast, but not radioing AT ALL would mean it would come even faster.
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    • 2: The sniper does fire another couple of shots, but he never gets close. Apparently, after Sanborn started returning fire more effectively, they became more intimidated about firing shots. The insurgent who snuck up on them appeared to be setting up to fire, but he didn't have a good shot because he lacked optics. He was probably trying to make sure he had a good shot before revealing his position, not realizing he'd been spotted already.
    • 3: There was one insurgent left after the sniper was killed (his spotter). He probably got smart and remained in hiding after the rest of his friends were killed, or took off behind the hill behind the building. Insurgents manage to break contact all the time, so this is nothing unusual, especially as there were only three soldiers and two contractors pinned down behind the berm.
  • Was Eldridge shot by an insurgent or by James during the rescue?
    • I gathered that he was shot by James. When he's jumped, we only hear one burst of gunfire (Eldridge killing an insurgent) and then James and Sanborn jumped the remainder when they were dragging him away.

  • Didn't Beckham survive? The kid at the end offering Jones DVD s and soccer sure looks and sounds like him, but a lot of the main page tropers seem to think that was actually him with the body bomb. Was the kid at the end a different boy, a hallucination, or actually Beckham?
    • I was scratching my head at that too; I think it is Beckham at the end. James seems to have convinced himself that the dead boy was him, and doesn't notice. He's clearly traumatized by the experience.
    • That kid is Beckham. James recognizes him. He's not in shock or anything else. He just doesn't want to get close to anyone after that experience with the kid who he thought was Beckham's body.

  • After James disables the car bomb, an older man, apparently a superior officer, congratulates him and calls him "hot shit". Now, I don't know anything about military hierarchy and whatnot and haven't seen the film in a while, but logically, it would have made more sense for that superior officer to shove his boot up James' ass for putting his own life (and possibly the lives of his men) in danger needlessly, for cutting off communications, and probably for a bunch of other small things. Am I missing something here?
    • That officer was from the National Guard IIRC. The implication was that he was a weekend warrior who was impressed by this recklessness, rather than a professional who should have reprimanded James.
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    • I think that scene is meant to demonstrate that higher-ranking officers encourage the kind of thing that goes against common sense to most people and that the high-ranking officers are just war-mongers who don't value human life as much as they value valor.
    • Or, you know, results trump rules sometimes. James risked his life, possibly risked the lives of his team, and so on, and so on... but he disabled the bomb and thus kept a good chunk of the city from exploding. It's a well-established trope, both in fiction and real life, that the hero of the day is often forgiven his sins.
    • Or, you know, this ENTIRE MOVIE is designed to make soldiers look bad, ranging from merely without morality to full-on kill-crazy. Putting a ridiculously inaccurate Hollywood stereotype like the "Aggressive Senior Officer" in the movie is a pretty mild example.

  • Is cutting through case hardened steel locks with bolt cutters as big as the ones James had really as difficult as this movie makes it out to be?
    • It can be, some kinds of steel are pretty tough. The thought that an EOD team wouldn't have what they need to cut through them in a heartbeat is just as silly as the rest of the movie.
      • If the jaws are worn out and deformed from cutting through hard things, it's even more difficult.

  • I never served in any military, but why were Sanborn and James so proficient with a sniper rifle? It seems to me they should only know how to work their normal rifle and be skilled at bomb disposal. Does it anywhere give a hint that they are trained in sharpshooter combat? Because as far as I know, it ain't easy. Yet both of them know how the spotter-shooter teamup works.
    • As a veteran, I can assure you that you are absolutely correct, this scene is one of many examples of Critical Research Failure through out the film.
      • With that said there are cases of rare individuals and special units receiving training beyond their MOS especially since its implied that the unit in The Hurtlocker is not a regular bomb disposal unit. WWII had cases of regular infantry and even REMF receiving training in stuff only Rangers supposedly should get (such as wilderness survival) because they were assigned in special tasks and mission for an upcoming campaign. I don't know of any case in Iraq but it wouldn't surprise me if there were units of cooks who received training in SF level tasks such as medical skills and it wouldn't be a stretch if due to unit shortages a unit like the one in this movie existed in the recent war on terrors. I mean in Vietnam they were fucking taking random raw recruits and sending them to Airborne school (even if they were unqualified to receive training) just to reinforce some undermanned units such as the 173rd Airborne (who even received raw draftees who didn't go to Airborne school just to replace ranks of their dead!).
    • Indeed. EOD and sniper teams are both highly specialized jobs that require at least 2 years of training before you even think about going on an operational mission. It's highly unlikely that the team's two NCOs would both be experts in both areas.
      • Unlikely but it does happen. I mean there were German Staff units who not only were sent to frontlines but even received training specifically for infantry especially by 1943 when it became apparent Germany wasn't going to win the war and was going to start being on the defensive. Not to mention Japanese chef well trained in bayonet and knife combat in the Imperial Japanese Army (who actually did Banzai charges that killed infantrymen in training and they even had some clashes with spies and guerrillas in a typical firefight). Some of American truck drivers and in some cases even cooks took it upon themselves to hone their marksmanship skill in Vietnam due to the constant threat of insurgents and random ambushes. So it might not be policy but there are soldiers who go and expand their skills voluntarily and we're not even taking into account how at the last minute soldiers are given specialized training because the Brass realize how unrelated skills might be needed and of course units that were normal but the brass intentionally sends on special missions (despite the unit not knowing) and covert units disguised as regular grunts. D-Day would like to have a word with you (where the regular US Army was given the same hard training a typical Marine amphibious would receive via the English Channels just months before the invasion). Perhaps the two NC Os went to sniper school before and even served in a sniper unit before switching to bomb disposal? I mean you'd be surprise of how your platoon commander was a former Delta or your staff has a former Navy Seal.
    • To answer the asker, its possible that even if Sanborn and James never received formal sniper training that they already had experience in using the scope prior to their tour such as hunting wildlife, marksmanship competitions, experience as police, or some other civilian training or experiences with guns. I mean no one else in their units seems to portray the same knowledge and skill with sniping as they do. Not to mention even without being sent to a school, many hardcore military types like to practise live fire wargames or test random military toys at the fort's training ranges so considering Sanborn and James are shown to have an extremely close bond even outside the battlefield and military battles. Maybe they like to play betting games or other sort of that shit.

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