Review Date: December 28, 2005
Director: Sam Mendes
Writer: William D. Broyles Jr.
Producers: Lucy Fisher, Sam Mendes, Douglas Wick
Jake Gyllenhaal as Swofford
Peter Sarsgaard as Troy
Jamie Foxx as Siek
A 20-year old gay cowboy, oops…I mean, a 20-year old man enlists himself into the marines and with it, a one-way ticket to a badass training camp and eventually, the American mobilization into the Middle East and Operation Desert Storm in 1990. The film chronicles the lives of one particular battalion as they (mostly) stand around and wait for something to happen in the war. Not much does…and yet we watch?
A different kind of “war movie” that can be somewhat compared to one other film, at least in terms of its structure, and that being Stanley Kubrick’s awesome FULL METAL JACKET, but without the all-out grit, involvement, senselessness and action. What does this movie offer? Well, it’s more introspective, humorous and stylized, with a zip to its opening, including yet another kickass “drill sergeant screaming obscenities into the ears of the latest recruits” sequence, tons of gorgeous shots of the boys out in the desert, and insight into an entirely unglamorized side of combat…and that side being: the waiting. That said, the film does ultimately glamorize even that part of war, as games of football, tons of masturbation and lots of drinking (i.e. my life) apparently make up that world (great world!). The insight presented to us by Charlie Sheen’s character in PLATOON (like his fear, etc…) is transmitted here via the film’s lead, Jake Gyllenhaal and his narration, but without the intensity or emotional investment as the former. Gyllenhaal does a decent job of taking us through the entire picture, from his initiation as a rookie marine, to the training, the actual penetration into the war zone and ultimately…well, the waiting game. Unlike the previously mentioned films though, this one focuses more on how the lack of action could also fuck with one’s mind. I was particularly amazed at how many of these guys’ ladies back home decided to dump them as they were preparing to fight the good fight. You usually just hear about them “standing by their man” and all, but more of the other side of that relationship was presented here.
A lot of the soldiers’ frustrations and feelings of isolation also came across very well here. I was waiting for them to eventually break out into action though, and even though the movie does ultimately cover a tiny bit of the actual “Desert Storm” action from 1990, it doesn’t really amount to much and certainly doesn’t show us anything that we hadn’t already seen before (although Sarsgaard’s “let me shoot!” scene was the tits). In fact, if you’re looking for a typical kind of war movie, with tons of action, plenty of kills and emotional tugs, JARHEAD is definitely not for you. Despite closing in under two hours, the film doesn’t really provide you with much meat, but it entertained me throughout, if only because I’m always interested in journeys into worlds unlike my own, especially if the lead character engages me (which in this case, he did) and I appreciate the film’s charm. I liked the way this film looked, I enjoyed its original insight into a different kind of war, I liked all of the actors and the chemistry between the soldiers, I was glad to see so much humor tossed into the mix and I most definitely dug the film’s soundtrack, which like its very intriguing trailer (sadly, more intriguing than the actual movie), took the film to a cooler level (note that I said “cooler” level, not necessarily “better”). A good movie, but definitely not for everyone, as much like the marines starring in this show, most of your time watching the film is spent waiting for “something” to happen. Oh, but if you want to see a great “sniper at war movie”, rent ENEMY AT THE GATES.
(c) 2015 Berge Garabedian