Modern Business, Modern Warfare and Contemporary Cinema

By Kadri Kaan Renda | 01 March 2010



A war drama set in Iraq, ‘The Hurt Locker’, by Kathryn Bigelow and a comedy set in the United States, ‘Up in the Air’ by Jason Reitman are reviewed in this article. The two movies, although at first glance appear to have virtually nothing in common, they depict magnificently the current aspects of modern business and modern warfare in their own cinematic way.

There seem very few commonalities between two movies. A superficial viewing would consider that the only similarity is that the main characters are in their early middle ages and their lives are their jobs. William James, played by Jeremy Lenner, a reckless bomb disposal expert and a sergeant, is assigned as the new leader of bomb squad in the US army in Iraq. George Clooney, starred as Ryan Bingham, is a ‘firing-man’ who travels widely around the country to fire workers, or rather in his own words “to discuss their future options” when they are laid off.

A reckless bomb disposal expert and a sergeant, James likes walking on the edge of life, which is extremely in contradiction with his fellow sergeant Sanborn’s style and mindset, who is a man of duty and does his job by the book.

Those two men’s working style clashed many times in the movie. For James, his job or rather his fierce passion about taking risks and walking the tightrope between death and life drives him back to Iraq, leaving behind his beloved but ignored family. On the other hand, Sanborn looks forward to going back to his hometown and dreams about having a family, a peaceful and an ordinary life as normal people do. For James, his job has become his addiction. Although he is not a war-loving, violence-thirsty soldier, he is addicted to the idea of walking towards death like a daredevil each time he has to disarm a bomb. This seems his way of enjoying life. As a civilian with his family he looks unfitted for the civilian life, which is why he chooses to be re-deployed in Iraq for one more year.

To some extent Sergeant James embodies another kind of heroic depiction of an American soldier, which we are used to see in most of the Hollywood movies. Nevertheless, this guy is different from Rambo who can mercilessly kill his enemies with his big machine gun or his shinning commando knife with his bare hands while showing off his big muscles in an era of intense conflict between superpowers. Rambo is definitely the creation of the Cold War rivalry between two superpowers. In contrast, in the character of Sergeant James we see the contradiction between American hegemony and its role in promoting democracy and liberty in third world countries. The question is, thus, whether the Americans are lurching from one war to another in third world countries for noble reasons such as spreading democracy and human rights or they are fighting there solely because of their addiction to war and power.


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