Conflict, Image, Narrative: Hollywood in the Middle East

by Daniel Binns

RMIT University, Melbourne

 

Abstract

 

While the war cinema of the late 1980s onwards is typified by a return to the group ensemble and the intimate framing of subjects reminiscent of Vietnam war film, it is also characterised by a disjointed, concatenated, ‘machine-gun’ editing syntax inspired by news footage and videogames. Three Kings (1999) and The Hurt Locker (2008) are arguably representative of Hollywood’s attitude towards conflict in the Middle East. While the technology producing the narratives has changed, and the presentation of those narratives is very different, this paper contends that, on some level, stories from contemporary conflicts of the Middle East (Iraq, Syria) have returned to the nationalistic, high-concept ideals of the World Wars. These films take a wider perspective, appropriating techniques of news reportage, documentary footage, and the ‘machine-vision’ of targeting screens and in-built cameras, in presenting an essentialist view of these new global conflicts: handheld cameras, a constantly-moving frame, and disjointed editing shake the audience into an awareness of the implications of these far-away wars. This paper examines key scenes from both films alongside philosophical considerations of cinematic spatiality and technological changes in warfare, to attempt to redefine the ‘war film’ in light of modern ‘globital’ conflicts.

 

Keywords: war,cinema, Gulf War, Iraq War, representation, media, Hollywood    [MORE-PDF]