on February 10, 2006
DISCLAIMER: Jarhead is not, repeat NOT, an action movie; if you watch it expecting to see a boatload of action, combat, or lame one-liner's you WILL be disappointed. What you should be expecting to see is a great rendering of what life was like for a US Marine during Desert Storm. The story is unique, the writing and characters and acting are dead-on, the cinematography outstanding and at times surreal, but most importantly it just feels right. This is one of the best movies I saw in 2005 and I recommended it to anyone who's tastes have evolved beyond typical "war" movies.
The film 'Jarhead' is based on a book of the same name by by Anthony Swofford; both the book and the film are bound to make some people angry. A Marine sniper (STA) during Desert Storm I in the early 1990s, he recounted his experiences there with vivid emotion, weaving in his experiences of boot camp, adolescence, and civilian life after the Corps in the process. This is now a major motion picture chronicling many aspects of his story, with significant differences.
It was apparent in the book, and carries over to the film that Swofford has a chip on his shoulder - something he'll most likely readily admit. He has a 'bad attitude', and in fact revels in it. One wonders if this is a product of his war experiences, his Marine Corps training, or his upbringing. At one point his mother, who never really liked the idea of her son being in the Marines, but who wouldn't stand in her son's way, said 'I lost my baby boy when you went to war.' She described Swofford as being sweet and gentle prior to that, and angry and unhappy afterwards. One wonders how much of a change is there - if one can take the stories at face value, this is the same boy who had a fist-fight with his father over going in the Corps at the age of 17, and who had Marine Corps decals put on his shirts as a child. One of his drill instructors even gave Swofford what he considered a great compliment - 'you'll be a great killer someday.'
I make the caveat that one might not be able to take all of this at face value, because like many men in this kind of situation, Swofford is likely to exaggerate - making some pieces more dramatic and other pieces less so. Swofford recounts many tales of men in his sniper platoon who had adjustment problems after the war; one can but wonder if that is true for Swofford, too. Also, Swofford admits to being willing and able to lie if the cause is, in some internal sense, justified - his dealings with brother, in the Army in Germany who later died of cancer, is a case in point. Then we have the 'made in Hollywood' aspects of the film that mean this can be no documentary, but has to be dramatised. In fact, truth is probably stranger (not necessarily better or worse) than what is portrayed on the screen.
Regardless of the details which may or may not be completely true (and, as with many autobiographical pennings, some of the details are necessarily changed), the emotion certainly is. Perhaps the strongest point that comes across is a sense of disappointment and cynicism - that Swofford has ideals and goals is not at issue, although he does downplay these (he doth protest too much sometimes); but his experiences in the Corps and in the war were not what he dreamed. He mentions at various time the recruiting posters and campaigns - while it is true that Marine Corps never promises an easy life (quite the opposite), rarely does one learn prior to entry that one might end up being on the stirring end of the latrine clean-up detail; of human-refuse dump ablaze and blowing all over the place.
Just as in the book, the film gives one a sense of some of the problems that the 'average' grunt faces in combat situations. This war was very different from Vietnam, of course, but some of the issues are the same - interminable waiting, equipment malfunctions (if it isn't just plain missing), fear and bravado in a strange mix, questioning and ambiguity as to the value of the war, the cause, and even their own lives. The Desert Shield/Desert Storm situation is reflected in the page numbers of Swofford's book and the timing of this film - a lot deals with the Desert Shield portion, the hurry-up-and-wait aspect; surprisingly little time is spent with Desert Storm itself, as it was on and over so quickly, relatively speaking. There is a lot of psychological drama in this film in the waiting aspect; there's also a strong undertone of the absurdity of war.
Stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Anthony 'Swoff' Swofford, Jamie Foxx as Sgt. Siek and Peter Sarsgaard as Troy do an excellent job in their respective roles. Foxx turns in a really good performance, and this must be the year for Gyllenhaal. Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) takes a tough book and turns it into a tough film, which is not going to replace a film such as 'Full Metal Jacket' or 'The D.I.' for quintessential Marine film, but will most likely in get top billing among many for the portrayals and situations, especially some of the more bizarre and incomprehensible bits.
Again, while there is undoubtedly exaggeration here, and one must take some of Swofford's tales with a grain of salt (or, perhaps sand), there is realism and truth in the feelings these situations engendered. I can understand the anger of Marines and other military who read the book and will see the film and feel a sense of betrayal, but I can also understand those who feel that Swofford is saying what others can't or won't say. This is a tough product. While I would never want the Marine Corps or military to be judged by this one thing, it is a perspective worth including in the overall mix. Snipers have a reputation for being a bit on the fringes anyway, and Swofford's story in that regard is very true to form.
on March 9, 2006
I love this movie, and the collector's edition dvd does not disappoint (I have ONE complaint which I'll address in a bit). The film, if you haven't seen it, is a beautifully shot, thought-provoking war film that doesn't feel like a war film. This is not a typical shoot-em-up, blow-em-up war movie. It shows the boredom of daily marine life, waiting to fight without an outlet for all of the aggression they have been so actively cultivating. The extras are great, and the 2-disc is definitely worth the extra money. Jarhead Diaries is an intensely interesting (and often humourous) look behind the scenes. Background and Semper Fi are also very interesting to watch - especially as a Canadian it was great to learn more about the American Marine culture. Now, my complaint: there are no cast commentaries. Sam Mendes does a great job on his, and there is a second commentary by the screenwriter. However, this is such a character-driven film with some incredible performances - it would have been very nice to hear commentary from them (Gyllenhaal, Foxx, Sarsgaard as well as the lesser known actors who are all excellent). I would have given this dvd 5 stars were it not for that omission. The film, direction, writing and acting are all extraordinary. Overall, it is an excellent buy - any film fan should have it in their collection.
on November 9, 2007
i had no interest in seeing jar head prior to watching it.judging by
all the previews,i thought it would be just another boring war movie,at
best.however,my buddy had taped it so we decided to give it a try.after
all, we had just sat through the train wreck that was Silent Hill,and
it couldn't be any worse.turns out,it was quite a well done movie.its
depiction of a company of marines and their lives during dessert shield
and dessert storm,was,i'm sure, an accurate portrayal of military
life.giving this movie extra credence is that it is adapted from a
novel by Anthony Swofford,who was himself a marine during both dessert
shield and dessert storm.The book and the movie chronicle his
experience during that time.and while the producers may have taken some
dramatic liberty,i believe it does stick close to the facts.Jake
Gyllenhall does well as the title character,and Jamie Foxx is very
strong as Staff Sgt.Sykes his,commanding officer.Peter Sarsgarrd is
also strong as Troy,a fellow marine and friend.and i can't forget Chris
Cooper who has a small and memorable role as well,which he infuses with
his usual brilliance.I believe the filmmakers did a good job depicting
life as a marine waiting for action in Kuwait.the film is well paced,
and tightly directed,with very few unnecessary scenes.there are also
touches of humour injected into the film.for a movie of this genre,it
is surprisingly lighthearted for the most part.it did not feel heavy
handed at all,and did not have the cloud of depression hanging over it
as many war themed movies do.it did have its dramatic moments of
course,but these moments did not oppressively choke the film.all in
all,a solid,entertaining piece of work. 3.5/5
on October 21, 2006
This movie blew me away. It is an excellent example of what hollywood can do when they get the right pieces in place.
There are a few things people need to know about this movie to make sure they don't expect something that this movie does not have. This movie is based on the memoir of a man who was in the Marines during desert storm. This isn't some hollywood glorification of war and combat and saving lives in the line of fire. This is a movie about a real person who went to a real war, with a real gun. This movie is about people an what they went through. It is not about the hollywood version of war heroes.
The movie does everything in it's power to not make a judgement on the war, or war in general. It doesn't glorify war any more than it criticizes war and vice versa. It just tell this one man's story. The movie gives you enough information to decide for yourself, or to ignore the whole thing and just appreciate a well-told story.
on January 29, 2006
Sam Mendes has created a contemporary war classic, in the tradition of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ and ‘Platoon’. Mendes and his cinematographer Roger Deakins are often able to make a raw, gritty war film while at the same time allowing almost every shot to be as visually appealing as a painting, such as when the oil wells ignite, the vastness of the desert, and when Jake Gyllenhall’s character ‘Swoff’ comes across an oil-drenched horse in the desert. The beauty of the film is in the way it perfectly exemplifies the futility of the war, and the frustration of the soldiers – who train for so long and yet feel useless, with no outlet for that training. The film does not give in to the urge of being a typical war or action movie. The fact that this film is about the soldiers and their struggles against loneliness, boredom, and the constant feeling of ineffectiveness is what makes it so great.
on September 25, 2014
Was an excellent movie, not much action but i recommend the movie to anyone that likes a very good drama.
on December 12, 2008
Jarhead, based on the best-selling memoir by former United States Marine Anthony Swofford, recounts his experiences during Desert Storm.
After a brief sequence depicting the brutal humiliation Swofford endured during Boot Camp, as well as his subsequent training as a sniper, his platoon is subsequently deployed to Saudi Arabia. With frequent rousing speeches -- heavily imbued with American propaganda -- the men are eager to see combat and make their first kill.
But they must first play a waiting game, as the film focuses on their interminable boredom and the difficulty in maintaining relationships with wives and girlfriends back home. Nearly six months pass before the war begins which, for Swofford, lasts a mere four days; as he laments, "I never shot my rifle..."
The screenplay by William Broyles Jr. captures Swofford's sardonic tone and shoots through a series of events. But it fails to convey the author's constant fear of attack or his increasing doubt about his chosen role. In fact, the entire story is rather pointless, but that may very well be Swofford's point. However, by not taking a pro-war or anti-Bush platform, the film accomplishes nothing and suffers as a result.
While Jarhead attempts to do for the Gulf War what Platoon did for Vietnam, it has none of the latter's horror, edge or emotion. And the eclectic soundtrack accentuates the film's inability to define itself.
Director Sam Mendes portrays the Marines as rugged but, for the most part, vacuous. More a character study than a chronicle of war, Mendes chills the viewer with images of charred refugees and rains of oil from blazing wells.
As Swofford, Jake Gyllenhaal has a surprising screen presence that show's enormous promise, but he is given little to do but swear and goof around. Nevertheless, he delivers an intense and experienced performance that equals those of Jamie Foxx as a Marine lifer who heads the platoon, and Peter Sarsgaard as Swofford's mentor.
Though not the first movie about the Gulf War, Jarhead adds little to its cinematic comment. Still, it offers fascinating insight into what it means to be one of the few and the proud. Rating: 6 out of 10.
on April 19, 2016
2 stars is a gift.
on February 21, 2015
DVD not playing...