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Overall Rating
3.29

Awesome: 16.67%
Worth A Look31.94%
Just Average: 27.08%
Pretty Crappy: 12.5%
Sucks: 11.81%

14 reviews, 60 user ratings


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Jarhead
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by Robert Flaxman

"The opposite of a war film."
4 stars

With America divided sharply along political lines, the past couple of years seem to have seen an uptick in films that are very overt about their politics, with the larger percentage coming from the left side of the spectrum, from Fahrenheit 9/11 to Syriana. Sam Mendes’ Jarhead, a tale of Marines in Iraq during the first Gulf War, is a film that many, I think, would lump into this group, but the film’s message is a good deal subtler.

Based on the book by and told from the perspective of Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal), Jarhead unfolds not so much as a single linear story but as a somewhat disjointed collection of vignettes set in a linear order. Going from Swofford’s earliest days in the Corps up through his return from Iraq following the brief Operation Desert Storm, the film does most of its work as something of an exposé on military life in a situation where men trained to fight are being asked not to.

Some of the situations that Swofford describes seem unlikely to have happened, such as a Marine being killed during a live fire drill and a recapitulation of the urban legend featuring an X-rated “Dear John” tape. Calling these scenes into question brings the entire film under scrutiny, but if Jarhead isn’t a letter-specific description of Swofford’s time in the Middle East, it at least seems to accurately represent the way he felt about it looking back – a trained killer being ordered to do nothing for months on end.

Jarhead is only one man’s story, and as such, even if it were completely accurate, it wouldn’t tell the whole story of the first Gulf War. The story does, however, seem to provide a significant amount of illumination on more recent events. Watching Jarhead’s Marines resort to football games and drunken parties can’t help but recall all the charges surrounding the second Gulf War; in particular, a scene where one of Swofford’s platoon members finds the body of an Iraqi and talks about having his picture taken with it recalls the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Jarhead doesn’t excuse such behavior, but it certainly helps explain it. The military mentality is suited to fighting; put a fighter in a situation where he can’t fight and the frustration starts to build. Now fly him halfway around the world, away from his family, and tell him to wait. The mounting frustration of the troops in Jarhead is palpable, and they didn’t even have to worry about attacks by an amorphous enemy as those involved in the current conflict have.

With images like this, and considering that the main character is someone who actively talks about getting out of the military, it would be easy to dismiss Jarhead as an anti-military screed, but Swofford clearly has little but respect for the men on the ground. The attack in Jarhead, pointed or not, is on the policymakers who don’t treat the individual members of the military as actual human beings. Swofford and Mendes take the viewer into the trenches, displaying how men respond when put into situations that they could not possibly have expected.

With all this intelligence behind the film, it’s a shame it couldn’t have been drawn into a more cohesive story, but Mendes and screenwriter William Broyles Jr. seem to be aiming to fit as many bits of Swofford’s book into the film as they can without much regard to fitting the whole thing together. To be fair, there isn’t much of a linear story to begin with – it’s quite clear that Swofford saw virtually no action during his time in the Middle East – but films don’t generally succeed on message alone, and Jarhead is one such example. It looks great (thanks to Roger Deakins’ cinematography) and it has a lot going for it, but the film ultimately suffers due to its scattershot plot.

Some war films bemoan the tragedy of war while still scoring points with choreographed combat sequences. Jarhead is the opposite, recognizing that for some people, combat needs to happen – and then showing what transpires when it doesn’t. It isn’t the most thrilling two hours as a result, but it’s still one of the most compelling and controversial statements a film has ever made about war and the people trained to fight it.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13464&reviewer=385
originally posted: 08/27/06 00:15:21
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell good acting good production values dull as dishwater 2 stars
6/21/10 Aaron Two of my grandparents and my uncle were mariens, in every way this movie is total garbage 1 stars
12/18/09 Jeff Wilder Good not great. Pacing off. But characters well defined. 4 stars
7/07/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* A straight foward movie about how desert shield/storm really was. I wanted more sniping!!!! 4 stars
8/18/08 Shaun Wallner This ones ok. 3 stars
6/11/08 PAUL SHORTT AS MUCH AS IT SEEKS TO BREAK NEW GROUND, IT FEELS CALCULATED 1 stars
4/25/08 Karrie Millheim I thought it was a good story and the guys are hot 4 stars
4/21/08 mr.mike Did they think being a marine would be a picnic? 3 stars
8/06/07 Hello Stranger takes another view on war. and it works. a bit tedious though 4 stars
4/18/07 Stevo UK Good picture of the horrors of war, but it was supposed to be a movie. 3 stars
12/13/06 Phil M. Aficionado Really compelling as a "slice of life as war" portrayal; excellent production values, too 4 stars
11/04/06 A Concerned Citizen It's the one war film that describes the war in it's entirety, similar to Full Metal Jacket 5 stars
11/01/06 Patsyc Not as good as I thought it would be. It was interesting to see the life of a marine there 3 stars
10/24/06 Drew G Great movie, not sure what type of people the haters are... 5 stars
10/12/06 TJ Absolutely sucked. I saw it last night for the first time. A total waste.Don't bother! 1 stars
9/21/06 Chris Hately Great film. Oh, and Bill Hicks is the best comedian of our times. 4 stars
9/13/06 Mara Frost Good movie, Jake Gyllenhaal gives the best performance of his career 4 stars
9/12/06 matt pretty funny, good visuals 4 stars
5/28/06 daveyt story about tedium and pointlessness, told likewise. Jake was good though 3 stars
4/27/06 jana newton I loved this movie 5 stars
4/26/06 Indrid Cold I guess the Gulf War was boring and pointless, but so is the movie about it. 3 stars
4/24/06 Ken Muir Too much needless profanity. Vacuous content. 1 stars
4/23/06 Ry no story.... 2 stars
4/17/06 Jung Texican Decent documentary maybe, instead a film made hollow by its empty story 2 stars
3/23/06 mike waste of time, movie about garbage and marines being gay! not cool at all 1 stars
3/09/06 Wiseman Watch Saving Private ryan instead, I really regret I bought this movie. 1 stars
3/07/06 Katie Interesting look at the life of soldiers. 3 stars
2/05/06 gladys it was a waste of time..boring!! 1 stars
1/12/06 cooler mendes was always overrated and this proves it 1 stars
1/07/06 Bob Great performances, some fantastic imagery and a nice new take on war. 5 stars
12/10/05 J.K. Claire The best movie ever about war and mind. 5 stars
12/07/05 Sharon This movie was degrading to the military. My husband is a veteran and was appalled. 1 stars
12/04/05 B. McDaniel This film sucked - Don't bother 2 stars
11/29/05 M. Ritter, Marine Wife Marines sacrifice so much for us, what a slap in the face to Marines and their wives! 1 stars
11/28/05 Phlyer2 Discredits Brave Martines-Shameful! 1 stars
11/27/05 Elizabeth S Absolutely riveting, and Saarsgard should get a supporting nom. 5 stars
11/24/05 baseball-nut Not a bad movie....I'd suggest you wait and rent it at Blockbuster! 3 stars
11/23/05 Dustin Geist It was good half way through but after about half way the interesting just dropped. 1 stars
11/22/05 Jessica Holland I absolutely loved this movie, i think it is great for people to see!!!! 5 stars
11/21/05 Kurtis J. Beard Cooper and Foxx are fantastic. Sarsgaard great as usual. Screenplay blows. 4 stars
11/20/05 Brianna Schroeter I came out wondering what it was I missed. I'm not sure if I did. It's just too easy. 3 stars
11/17/05 Judy it's really good, just not for those people that only go to watch people get blown up. 4 stars
11/17/05 MrsVoorheesBabyBoy Slow and Bloody Boring 1 stars
11/13/05 Lanie Richardson it was different, but definitely worth a trip to the theater. 4 stars
11/12/05 Todd a very different kind of war movie, but well worth a look. 5 stars
11/11/05 "K" More Anti-American BS from the director of the highly anti-American "American Beauty" 1 stars
11/10/05 wes excellent view of what marine life is actually like... a little exaggerated at times 5 stars
11/09/05 Sean COMPLETE PILE OF CRAP 1 stars
11/09/05 Linden Groves not for friends of W 4 stars
11/07/05 Jeff Hella fucking good 5 stars
11/07/05 jcjs so so; ain't no DeerHunter, Apacolypse, Platoon, Born on 4th.pretty tame barely 'WorthALook 4 stars
11/07/05 bentable zzzzzzzzzzzzzz 2 stars
11/07/05 KingNeutron Disturbing and thought-provoking. 4 stars
11/06/05 Eric Weisman,M.D. I'm surprised this one played in our local theater, I loved it. 5 stars
11/06/05 Zigga This movie was tight man! don't watch it if your ONLY expecting a Blackhawk down paprt 2 5 stars
11/06/05 Naka Nope. 2 stars
11/06/05 othree Prob a good book someone made 2 movie, funny, kinda late gettin ready 4 war their never in 4 stars
11/05/05 Marine Family This movie was awful! It portrayed Marines as idiots who had no purpose nor conviction. 1 stars
11/05/05 jeff no plot, good acting, dont really c the point of this movie!! i recommend it 4 stars
11/04/05 John Gordon What a let down, clearly written by someone who hated the Marines, Great for anit war movem 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  04-Nov-2005 (R)
  DVD: 07-Mar-2006

UK
  13-Jan-2006 (15)

Australia
  09-Feb-2006




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