We watched Hurt Locker last night; and I found plenty of meaning. It is not political or moral, nor does it need to be. Rather than adopting a conventional message of patriotism or good-versus-evil; this movie delivers a gripping personal tale of self-discovery. We join the adventure from within a blast helmet, listening to each careful breath.

(By the way, a locker only holds one person. Late in the film, troops searching a warehouse pass one apparently full of bullet holes.)

The bomb-diffusing protagonist, “Will”, recounts the theme of his journey to his infant son enjoying a Jack-in-the-Box: familiarity leads to boredom. Will avoids familiarity like someone engaging in an extreme sport. Flirting with death makes him feel alive. An Iraqi child’s corpse and a man destined to die in a padlocked suicide vest disturb Will more than any bomb; because those people did not choose to gamble, and for them death is unfair.

Will’s asocial behavior makes him a terrible team player. Consequently this film, unlike Avatar, takes no position regarding military objectives in foreign lands. Will removes his communications headset, lingers too long in exposed locations, or phones the mother of his child without finding words to speak. He selfishly defines his attendance at the gaming table of life.

We could easily dismiss the bomb-disposal job as senseless. But people do it. And for Will, it has far greater meaning than picking cereal off a supermarket shelf. Hurt Locker intimately and persuasively explains why.