Oddly, the best part of the movie is its closing minutes, after James leaves Iraq for his family at home. James is in a supermarket with his wife and son and is tasked with getting breakfast cereal; finding the cereal aisle he stares mute as the seemingly infinite choices. It’s a funny, poignant moment, and it seems to me that this could have been the heart of the movie: how does one return to a life of normalcy after a year of insanity in Iraq? That’s the real question that thousands of soldiers and Marines (as well as journalists and governmental staff) have had to confront since the Iraq war began. But it will take another movie to explore this critical idea, The Hurt Locker, for all its explosions and tension, doesn’t really even try.
Robert Young Pelton also explores this in Licensed to Kill. Hired Guns in the War on Terror. Many of those who contract for private military corporations like Xe (formerly Blackwater) have serious US military experience, often coming from elite forces like Rangers and Seals. How does someone like that go back to the States, often to the small towns / impoverished areas they were from, and get a boring job? Instead, companies like Xe will pay them $500 a day and up to work in a war zone. (Or they become real mercenaries, hunting terrorist scalp for bounty money, as shown in the movie too.)
Part of the lure of course, is the buzz. You just can’t get that kind of adrenaline rush in civilian life, maybe unless you become a cop. That’s not a putdown. Some people like adventure.
While I think the movie is flawed in some areas, it does get you to thinking. Not many movies do that.