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The hurt locker: cinematic addiction, ‘critique’ and the war on terror

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date07/2011
JournalCultural Politics
Number of pages24
Original languageEnglish


The article approaches The Hurt Locker, an enthusiastically-received ‘critical’ film, as a symptom of today’s prevailing cultural and political codes. First we dwell on the homologies between the state of exception and the narrative logic of the film, including its reflection on the banalization of exception. This is followed by a parallel between the biopolitical optic of the film and today’s dominant ideology, which Badiou calls ‘democratic materialism’. We emphasize that, despite its critical credentials, The Hurt Locker is totally silent on the most crucial aspect of the war against terror, its de-politicizing effects. It is a depoliticized picture, in which the lack of antagonistic politics and subjectivities in today’s democratic materialist constellation is countered with the inherent excess of the system, the protagonist’s (self-)destructive passion for the Real. Following this discussion at the level of the narrative, we discuss the film in the context of what Deleuze conceptualized as ‘time-images’. Our point here is that with the The Hurt Locker we are within ‘the cinema of the seer’, within a nihilistic portrayal of nihilism from inside, on the basis of highly formalized time-images that do not become politicized. In other words, The Hurt Locker is trapped within what it describes.