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History Into Fiction: The Writer's Art of Recreating the Past

How Realistic is ‘The Hurt Locker’–and Does it Matter?

It’s an occupational hazard for any fiction writer who tiptoes into the minefield of history. Inevitably, critics will muster to decry the lack of historical accuracy.

And the more recent the history, the more hazardous the occupation.

The most recent exhibit is a Washington Post article by Christian Davenport (Feb. 28, E 1) about the backlash being launched by some Iraq soldiers and veterans against the Oscar-nominated movie, ‘The Hurt Locker,’ a gritty drama about a bomb-defusing specialist who becomes addicted to the adrenaline rush of his near-suicidal job.

The story compares soldiers’ reactions to ‘The Hurt Locker’ and “Generation Kill,’ an HBO drama set in Iraq, adapted from a book by Evan Wright.

The article recognizes that filmmakers often worry that maintaining “spot-on” accuracy in depicting modern military life would leave audiences “cold.”

When Davenport posed the conundrum of accuracy to Dr. David McKenna, the Columbia University film professor said that the movie “isn’t as much about Iraq as it is about one soldier’s addiction to war. It’s a character study, an exploration of courage, bravado and leadership told through ‘a series of suspenseful situations. I suppose it could have just as easily been set in outer space.”

McKenna added that if veterans have a problem with such interpretations, “well, this is an opportunity to go make your own movie.”

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