Published on July 14th, 2007 | by Chris3
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
I am in a world of shit, yes. But I am alive, and I am not afraid.
Stanley Kubrick's 1987 masterpiece Full Metal Jacket is a somewhat bizarre animal. Is it a hardcore war movie? Is it an anti-war movie? Is it a scathing parody of nearly any war movie that came before it? Is it irreverent? Disrespectful, true in many ways but so outlandish in others as to be laughed at?
Yes. All of the above. What Kubrick's done with this movie is simultaneously create a send-up of all those wonderfully optimistic war films from the 50's, with their portrayals of basic training as nothing but a two month camping trip and the job after as a picnic in paradise interrupted by brief portions of fighting.
The first half of the movie focuses on mainly three new recruits at Paris Island, One "Joker" (Matthew Modine), "Cowboy" (Arliss Howard), and "Gomer Pyle" (Vincent D'onofrio). In the role that made him famous, R. Lee Ermey's drill sergeant character is a ruthless sadistic creature from hell, spouting endless streams of profanity and insults at our recruits. Eventually, those insults, combined with the group mentality of the squad, bring Pyle (and the DS) to a very un-humorous demise.
In that first section of the film he not only parodies every other film portrayal of basic training to date, he does it in such an over the top and funny style, that only when its over do you realize how un-funny it all was. He also says a great deal about the assimilation process and the indoctrination that goes on.
The second half of the film sends Privates Joker and Cowboy to different places and different jobs in Vietnam, with Cowboy (like most) in the infantry, and Joker as a writer for Stars and Stripes.
Just about every stereotype you can imagine is portrayed here, the not-so-bright heavy machine gunner, the everything-is-a-sports-metaphor Colonel, the Gung-Ho "I need to get in the shit" desk jockey... you name it. All the while intermixed with just plain bizarre moments and strange speech-like dialogue such as posing with dead NVA soldiers on "his birthday" and booby-trapped stuffed animals.
There are moments in FMJ which defy explanation and stand out as just plain out of place. Such as the scene where the documentary filmmaker is running down the line of Marines and they all spout off some overly scripted tripe while "The Bird" plays on the soundtrack. Part of the parody? Possibly, but its the "not executed well" parts of the movie that hurt it.
On an action-combat-and-mayhem level, there really isn't a whole lot to speak of. There's a short firefight as the Tet offensive begins, another brief moment of panic as their squad is shelled as they approach some burning city, and not until the end of the film does the real shooting begin.
And in the end is where it all comes together, as... well I won't spoil it for you completely, but suffice it to say that Joker runs right out of jokes, and has to look death in the eyes and come to terms with it....
...While wearing a peace symbol button and "Born to Kill" scribbled on his helmet.
Don't go into to Full Metal Jacket expecting Platoon or Saving Private Ryan. It's a fairly strange piece of film, but if you know what to expect you'll get more out of it than if you go in expecting another average action movie.
And if you see it on HDNet Movies as I did just now, be forewarned there are some strange digital artifacts that will drive you nuts during the last ten minutes or so. It's just weird.
(I should mention, too, that every so often I see this UH-34D, YL-37 flying around the area. These birds are featured prominently in FMJ, and hats off to these guys for keeping YL-37 going!)
Full Metal Jacket
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Stanley Kubrick's 1987, penultimate film seemed to a lot of people to be contrived and out of touch with the '80s vogue for such intensely realistic portrayals of the Vietnam War as Platoon and The Deer Hunter...
DVD InformationBinding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Brand: Warner Home Video
Original Release Date:
- Max Gail
- Adam Baldwin
- Vincent D'Onofrio
- Lee Ermey
- Dorian Harewood
- Factory sealed DVD
Summary: in the end is where it all comes together, as... well I won't spoil it for you completely, but suffice it to say that Joker runs right out of jokes, and has to look death in the eyes and come to terms with it.... ...While wearing a peace symbol button and "Born to Kill" scribbled on his helmet. Don't go into to Full Metal Jacket expecting Platoon or Saving Private Ryan. It's a fairly strange piece of film, but if you know what to expect you'll get more out of it than if you go in expecting another average action movie.