When it comes to popular film and depictions of war, accuracy is among the first casualties.
One of the most well-known examples is The Hurt Locker, which won the Best Picture Oscar for 2008. The main character, Staff Sgt. William James, seems to be constantly fighting the war in Iraq without backup, which many military observers say is among the most prominent inaccuracies in a war film to date. As any soldier who served in the Iraq war will tell you, there is safety in numbers. Bottom line: The Hurt Locker’s three-man team would just not happen.
This film is just a more recent example of Hollywood inaccuracies when it comes to war and military service. In the world of moviemaking, every boot camp is a hardcore nightmare; war is fast paced and explosive at all times; and veterans are loose canons waiting to blow. None of these depictions are quite accurate, but tell that to the civilians who watched Full Metal Jacket, Jarhead and Rambo.
Critics and civilians alike may feel they now understand a little more about military service after watching war movies. Considering how often Hollywood gets it wrong, it’s no wonder stereotypes and myths continue to surround those who serve.
The reality is inaccuracies will always be present in war films because producers and writers often sacrifice reality for the sake of telling a good story.
So is it important to care about inaccuracies in movies? Issues of fine detail can sometimes get a pass, like when the Master Gunnery Sergeant in “Sniper” calls a German Mauser a Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle. But blatant inaccuracies not only aggravate and confound the military community, they also enforce stereotypes and add bricks to the wall separating soldiers from those they fight to protect.
If there’s any positive to be found in error-riddled war films, it’s that they help showcase the sacrifice and service of our Armed Forces to a mainstream audience — even if the lead actor salutes with his left hand.
Photo by Mario Sundar