As I watched Full Metal Jacket, I was totally impressed by the way legendary director Stanley Kubrick, could build such a piece like this. I enjoyed it very much but was pretty astounded by the message that it gave out, and certainly makes me wonder about the coining of this movie as “The Greatest War Film Ever Made,” though Platoon and Apocalypse Now could give it a run for its money. But certainly this was a great rebound for Kubrick after his commercial failure “The Shinning,” and pretty much this film has become another classic in the Kubrick library.So the story follows the experience of Private Joker (Mathew Modine), who joins the marines, and he and a squad of recruits undergo a scorching, dehumanizing and downright mentally and physically exhausting combat training. Led by brutal Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey), the recruits learn what it takes to be trained killers, and to be fearless against the enemy. The audience manages to also learn about the toll that it has on the recruits, especially Private Gomer Pyle (A then-chubby Vincent D’Onofrio), whose cracking under pressure and low self-esteem would eventually prove devastating.
"A War Memorial"
After his experience and graduation Private Joker is sent into Vietnam to fight the war and more so to as a Marine correspondent for Stars and Stripes magazine. But as he covers the war, Joker must also fight to stay alive in the lethal hunting grounds of Vietnam.
The first thing that comes to mind is comparison, since that’s the only way to make sense of why would Kubrick would set up the film in two parts. Anyways, both sections show how the elements of war affect an ordinary person. The training and the fighting are always the challenges, but also take a toll on somebody since you’re always physically and mentally abusing from your own self. Both training and real war have their own points of brutality. Training has is strong point on being brutal on the human body and mind, it teaches you and beats you to pulp until you learn on how to act like an animal, how to kill on sight, and that takes a toll on a person, it changes you forever, and can no longer be the same person you were before, instead your mind is filled with hate, and filled with the urge and desire to kill somebody, you’ve just become a killing machine. The first state of dehumanization has ended.
Due to the brutality of the first part, the second part isn’t as mesmerizing as the first one, but its still captivating, and it follows our recently baptism-of-fire-ed Private Joker as a correspondent to an army gazette. But as he joins a fellow platoon to cover the latest in the Tet Offensive, we are also met with plenty of soldiers, and how they behave now. They’re more hardcore, they’re deranged gung-hoes, some more than others. For some of these soldiers this war is a nightmare, and they want to go home, for others, it’s a heaven, and they kill people like crazy. It doesn’t show as much as in the first section but we can clearly see the second stage of dehumanization (a trademark in mostly all Kubrick films), on how the trained killers react on a real life war environment. These people at first have never killed anyone before, and now, after been brainwashed in the boot camp, they see the enemy and go kill without mercy, without remorse. This of course leads to savagery and madness.
So what are the similarities between the two? Were shown from the top, and through our guide, Private Joker, that war is hell, but we fight to preserve the peace, to preserve freedom, or simply to see how it brings out the worst in people. Of course, that’s what most war movies are all about right? But what’s most unique about this film is that it isn’t a pro-war movie, much less an anti-war movie. Kubrick masterfully narrates the story on both sides of the genre of war, and lays all the cards on the table, with the audience free to choose the point of view that they want, in other words, the movie is whatever you want it to be (a good example is Joker’s outfit, he carries a peace sign medallion and in his helmet is written “Born To Kill”). The film never stops being a portrayal of the Marine Corps, but the involvement in the war and the aspects of war are laid around as the subplots and background of the main story, it doesn’t help a cause nor is against a cause nor it even supports a cause. It’s just a story of a soldier and his involvement in the Marines.
The performances were great from all over. Modine gives out one of the best performances of his career. But R. Lee Ermey astounds in the role of the brutal Drill Sergeant Hartman, how could he not? He was one in real life. Vincent D’Onofrio was also great in a physically and mentally demanding role as the stricken Private Gomer Pyle, while Adam Baldwin also shows us another dark side of humanity as the gung-ho Private Animal Mother. Kubrick’s direction as always is top notch, and the script, co-written by Gustav Hartford was also great.In the end, I recommend everyone to watch this movie. It’s a war movie yes, but it’s like no other war movie, it doesn’t support no left or right, it stays in the middle and simply tells its story, and never veers off to any direction. For a film to do that requires someone with a lot of talent. But hey, only a great director like Stanley Kubrick would’ve pulled it off. He’ll be sorely missed.
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originally posted: 08/09/01 20:25:58