JARHEAD is a truthful, thought-provoking film (I wouldn’t expect anything less from Sam Mendes)—but if you’ve seen other war movies, you’ve pretty much seen this one too, as it does its fair share of cinematic borrowing. The plot of restless soldiers during Desert Storm was addressed in THREE KINGS (although the tone and plot couldn’t be more different); the arduous mental effects of war…THE DEER HUNTER; the boot camp instructor…FULL METAL JACKET; heck, the soldiers even watch APOCALYPSE NOW and sing along to "The Ride of the Valkyries". While the references could be viewed as tongue in cheek, the film really doesn’t do much to set itself apart from any other flicks in the genre—war is hell, both on and off the field of combat. We know this.
Jake Gyllenhaal is in just about every frame of JARHEAD and he gives a fantastic performance that drives home the emotional center of the movie. There’s also an impressive supporting cast, whose characters really deserved more face time. I almost forgot Peter Sarsgaard was even in the film until halfway through, which sucks because his character is pretty important. Likewise, Jamie Foxx starts out strong as Gyllenhaal’s CO, but isn’t given much to do afterwards. Chris Cooper and Dennis “I Own You” Haysbert are also in the movie for about 30 seconds apiece.
So, as a whole I enjoyed JARHEAD and appreciated its realistic portrayal of modern warfare—soldiers losing their mind while waiting around for something to happen—but that doesn’t necessarily make for the most über-exciting movie.
Commentary by director Sam Mendes: “I’m now going to bore you stupid with observations about this movie…” Maybe it’s his British accent or his humorous honesty about the film’s production, but I certainly wasn’t bored with this commentary. (Apparently there was a lot of improvisation due to the actor’s being deep in character, which led to some conflict on set.) I have a lot of respect for Mendes…even if this isn’t his best movie; he still has a fresh, inventive eye as a filmmaker and his comments here confirm that.
Commentary by writer William Broyles and author Anthony Swofford: A lot has been made about Swofford’s original autobiographical novel and the accuracy of his story. While he does talk some about the writing process (a lot of the book is based on stories he heard from other marines and some of the characters are composites of different people), he spends most of his time speaking about the marine life and the realities of combat, which I found really fascinating. If you’re at all interested in the military, you’d probably enjoy this track.
Deleted Scenes (19:08): Eleven cut and extended scenes. Most were just more of the same and rightfully excised, although there is a terrific alternate opening with a hilarious cameo by Sam Rockwell that 100% should’ve been left in. Each scene is available with director and editor commentary.
Swoff’s Fantasies (6:10): A few deleted extracts that show Gyllenhaal’s character daydreaming about doing crazy things to his superiors. The movie does run a bit long, but I don’t see the problem with leaving these in, as there’s actually only a few seconds of extra footage. They’re pretty funny (especially the boot camp instructor in a dress) and they further show Swofford’s mental deterioration.
News Interviews in Full (16:37): The complete uncut compilation of interview footage. While it’s nice to see it here, and it shows each actor’s committal to their character, the quicker montage that’s in the movie is a lot more effective.
Here is where I would usually point out the lesser extras like trailers and galleries, but this disc surprisingly had none (which blows because JARHEAD had an awesome trailer). So you can just ignore these last two sentences.
And a quick shout out to someone over there in the suck right now…LCPL Marc St. Pierre, the only dude man-enough to wield a .50 caliber machine gun, get wasted, and go rock out to an episode of Full House, all without missing a beat. Oohrah, bro!