on September 28, 2011
One of Kubrick's master works.
An extremely graphic movie and the drill sergeant is particularly real.
This was probably because he was a Marine and from what I have heard, was originally hired as a technical advisor. Kubrick realized he had pure gold and put him in front of the camera.
The second half gives the viewer a taste of the Vietnam war and being in the "s***".
I enjoyed the film immensely and have added it alongside my other Kubrick favourites
on February 6, 2004
To date there is no film that is more accurate a depiction of Parris Island Marine Corps recruit training than this (I speak from first-hand experience). My Third Battalion platoon endured the same level of ridicule from two of our junior Drill Instructors (not the third junior or Senior Drill Instructor), and we took our share of beatings from them and even beat on each other every now and then. It was not a wild rampage of chaos but the result of conforming and adjusting to a team mentality where we all understood and accepted the required level of commitment and sacrifice that the title of Marine might some day demand of us. Lee Ermey (FMJ's Senior Drill Instructor) was himself an actual Marine Corps Drill Instructor. He gave a believable performance in the film, The Boys in Company C, during the late 1960's or early 1970's, but the setting was the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, quite different in it's depiction of basic training than Full Metal Jacket.
The boot camp scene in FMJ had all the look and feel of Parris Island, especially the super-wide cement and brick squad-bays of Second Battalion, which faces the Parris Island parade field. The foot lockers, racks (beds), rifles and other equipment, the drill instructor's commands and tactics, the running chants, the behaviors of the recruits, and the entire mood of the boot camp scene is incredibly accurate. I can see how people who have served in other services or different eras of the Corps might not be able to agree, but my experience at Parris Island WAS the Lee Ermey exprience. A typical platoon started with 72 recruits and graduated with 50-60. One platoon in another series actually graduated 25 out of its original 70. It was that tough physically and psychologically. Rifle Range suicides were common. I saw one. Many times the drill instructors would order us off of equipment (a common use of reverse psychology on those who were naturally prone to giving up), but God help the recruit who did give up and jump off. I was ordered to quit what I was doing many times, but I never did quit because I was wise to the trick tactics. After graduation we expected to shake hands and have our pictures taken with our drill instructors, but instead they ordered us, "the f**k off my G*dd**n island!!!"
With all this said, Lee Ermey's character was a loud, obnoxious, wild-eyed, inhuman beast who was "full of piss and vinegar," and nothing even remotely compassionate. But that's how it was. I highly recommend that anyone who is curious about the Marine Corps basic training environment (at least how it was) buy this disc and supplement it with true film footage from a modern Discovery Channel series called, The Making of Marines. Otherwise the film is not worth the plastic disc it is authored on, unless, of course this was similar to your own experience in Viet-nam. For me the show ends with the boot camp scene. Thankfully it consumes about a third to half of the movie. For good Viet-nam films I recommend Platoon, Hamburger Hill, and We Were Soldiers.
With a feeling of (questionably sadistic?) nostalgia: SEMPER FI
on April 21, 2004
Inormally hate watching anything more than twice. I get irritated with the tidbits that can make a movie completely awful to watch the second time around. However, with FMJ, it really does get better the more times you watch it! Watch those recruit's facial expressions carefully during the first part of the movie. It's so genuine with the smirks that are given off when the DI yelps his mouth off with hilarious antics. There's no doubt Kubrick filmed the scenes over and over again until they were "just right" -- something that totally lacks in modern day movies. R. Lee Ermey of the History Channel's "Mail Call" shines as the evil drill instructor. Mathew Modine is truly great as "Private Joker" Full Metal Jacket is movie that captures the war from boot camp to the 'Nam and feelings around it so perfectly that nothing can touch it. I was very impressed by how this movie portrayled how brutal boot camp is mentally and physically. I'm sure they don't train people like that anymore, but it was interesting to see how it was done around the Vietnam War. Kubrick is an artist and no one in the industry can even approach his level of skill. This has brutal honesty and passive aggressiveness all in the same package. And it is also the most quotable movie ever.
on October 1, 2002
One thing that most war movies overlook is the process by which normal boys can be programmed to kill an unknown enemy in a foreign land. "Full Metal Jacket", however, provides a convincing and thought-provoking analysis of this phenomenon.
The film begins with a 50 minute boot camp sequence, arguably the most entertaining part of the film. During boot camp, the group of Privates are verbally and physically badgered by Drill Sargeant Hartman. His very vocal use of racial slurs and extremely crude vulgarities shocked even myself, who normally can tolerate such language. But that seems to be Kubrick's intent. He wants us to experience how demoralized the young men must feel. As these men are shocked into obedience, it becomes easier to understand why they would do anything they're told to, even kill.
The high adrenaline first half of the film might make you think the second half is boring. But don't dismiss the 2nd half, because I think this is where Kubrick really tries to make his point.
Shifting to Vietnam, the films follows the path of Joker, one of the privates from the boot camp. Joker has managed to maintain his identity whereas other soldiers seem programmed and brainwashed. When asked why they are in Vietnam, the other soldiers simply reply, "to kill." Whereas Joker sarcastically replys, "I wanted to see exotic Vietnam, the jewel of Southeast Asia. I wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture ... and kill them. I wanted to be the first kid on my block to get a confirmed kill." Joker seems to understand the irony killing for peace, as expressed by his writing "Born to Kill" on his helment, while wearing a peace sign on his jacket.
A movie like "Full Metal Jacket" seems very appropriate in our current world situation where once again there are those in leadership who seem bent on using war to obtain peace.
on June 26, 2002
*Full Metal Jacket* starts off poorly: Stanley Kubrick, with his usual gift for overstating the obvious, takes up 45 minutes of our time demonstrating that training men to be killers can be a dehumanizing experience for the men. There ARE some masterful moments during this stretch, such as the scene where Vincent D'Onofrio's tub 'o' lard "Private Pyle" is held down and pummelled with soap bars wrapped in hand-towels. (His fellow boot-campers do this because the drill instructor punishes THEM for Pyle's mistakes and slovenly habits.) The cruelty in this scene provides much-needed impetus for Kubrick's intentions with this portion of the movie . . . because, thus far, the movie has merely consisted of the drill instuctor yapping at the recruits, non-stop, like a pit terrier. Lee Ermey in the role is rather funny, and hardly deserves to have his guts blown apart by the put-upon Pyle. (D'Onofrio's reptilian hissing and hysterical line-reading prior to squeezing the trigger is UNINTENTIONALLY funny.) After this incident, which is never referred to again during the rest of the film, Kubrick FINALLY takes us to Vietnam, and interest picks up considerably. One has to admire the director for his rather nutty insistence on creating Vietnam, or at least a war-torn facsimile thereof, in the Midlands. And it's perhaps this very lack of "realistic" scenery that inspires Kubrick to great scenic creativity. The hollowed-out, charred sets, the rubble that seems to go on for miles, the black smoke, the tongues of flame, are magnificently ugly. From a purely visual perspective, *Full Metal Jacket* is one of the most convincing war movies ever made, even if you're not convinced you're looking at Southeast Asia. I enjoyed Kubrick's world-weary soldiers too, though we don't get to know them very well. They're certainly preferrable to the suffering saints of *Apocalypse Now*, *Platoon*, et al. The only serious fault I can find with the Vietnam portion of the movie is the use of slow-motion during the climactic battle between our guys and a deadly accurate Viet Cong sniper. Slow-motion, more often than not, is a sign of a director getting lazy. The tool relies on the stretching-out of the action to provide the dramatic payoff, relieving the director from arriving at that payoff honestly. Well, whatever -- I still recommend the film. After all, you gotta respect a movie that coined the immortal phrase: "Me so horny!"
on December 10, 2002
This movie came the closest of all movies to the experience I had in Marine Corps Bootcamp. Their Senior Drill Instructor was much like my own. I had many of the same experiences as those in the movie: the drill instructors putting you to bed (every night), footlockers thrown all over the floor, blanket parties, recruits caught with contraban like Pvt. Pile's doughnut. My own experience seemed more intense maybe because the total focus of the movie was only on their senior drill instructor and nothing on the other 2, and having 3 months of bootcamp vs. their 2.
All scenes were believable - I think drill instructors have to memorize all the same sayings in drill instructor training. The only part I found unreal is the end of this section of the movie. I believe his D.I to be a combat vet with all his ribbons. Pile would have been on his face and off to Leavenworth before he knew it.
The movie is broken in half (2 movies in one). The second half is the continuing story in Vietnam. The mood of the second half of the film is as bizarre as the first half. Not a family movie.
on October 28, 2002
Stanley Kubrick is one of my all-time favorite movie directors. He was an unparalleled master of technique and form, releasing unequaled classics like "A Clockwork Orange," "2001," and "The Shining." But even great directors have at least one subpar movie in their resume, and this puppy is it. "Full Metal Jacket" is really two films blended into one. The first half is easily the more effective of the two. Here, we get an unflinching look at the day-to-day training of the Marines during the Vietnam war. The recruits are humiliated, verbally assaulted, and endure the most rigid of physical regimens. It's simultaneously unsettling and hilarious. But the minute these recruits go to war, it all goes downhill. This is quite possibly the first Kubrick movie that nearly put me to sleep. The war sequences are unexciting and perfunctory, and they pale in comparison to the rawness of the vastly superior Coppola masterpiece "Apocalypse Now." But there are definitely Kubrick touches that help make the film interesting. A lot of the photography recalls the clean and sterile images of "A Clockwork Orange." In addition, one scene, which looks like it could have been lifted from "The Shining," has the camera zoom into a recuit wearing the most demented facial expression. Kubrick diehards may want to give this a whirl, but if you're a fan of war movies, the final verdict is this: you've seen it all before. And better.
on June 26, 2001
When Saving Private Ryan came out, it inspired a craze for war. War was a hip again. (But never see Enemy at the Gates). So I guess that's one of the reasons I decided to see Full Metal Jacket. I not going to tell which one was better of the two, but they are both great in different ways. Saving Private Ryan's (SPR from now on) characters were very shallow and stereotypical. The war scenes , of course, were incredible. After that movie, you can compare other war scenes to see if they're realistic or not; as if you'd been in combat yourself. But Full Meatl Jacket was a lot different. For one, the first half of the movie takes place at Parris Island, a boot camp for enlisted men. And this introduces two of the best chraracters in cinema history; right up there with Wolverine, Tyler Durden, anyone in Goodfellas and Guy Pearce in anything. The first, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. This drill insrtuctor is intense, fast-talking, violent, intimidating and very well acted. And he doesn't soften up at the end because he knows his soldiers are unique, beautiful flowers. You'll see other movie's D.I.s and wish for this man to run in. The other character is comically nicknamed Gomer Pyle; real name Leonard. He is obviously a man who does not belong in the Marine Core. He' slow, out of shape, hated by other privates, hated by the Drill Instructor, and never should have left his mother's side. Vincent D'Onofrio plays this character so perfectly that you're convinced that's what he is like. Vincent, being a great underrated actor, is a wonderful character actor (look for him in The Cell, Men In Black and The Player). But the D.I. is convinced he will toughen him up, but not with positive comments and rewards. The climax of this first half is awe-inspiring, and shows the horrors of war which don't even take place overseas. The main character and narrator throughout the movie is Pvt. Joker played by Matthew Modine. He is a humorous character who uses his sarcasm as a cover and a way to point out wars contradictions and satires. He's a strong character who doesn't need to have flashbacks of is best friend back at home. The movie follows him through the Boot Camp and then in the Vietnam War, starting with the Tet Offensive. There are so many characters in this movie, and they are so memorable, that it's hard to choose a favorite. They all seem real, with real emotions and actions. One favorite is Animal Mother; he seems like a war crazy 'animal', but when his own 'friends' get shot down by a sniper, he is intensely moved to risk his life (in my opinion). In this last scene, invovling one enemy sniper, Stanley Kubrick inflicts emotions beautifully. Your always expecting this guy to get picked off, or you call one guy stupid because he will get shot, or you even feel sorry for both the sniper and the Americn G.I's. The music that starts up when they look for the sniper is so eerie and really gives you a sense of what Kubrick was all about(since we all knew him). The very last scene shows a big group of American soldiers walking in the night, singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song. It's ironic; you see all these horrible things the men did and said, but they can still sing a corny song in perfect melody, like you and me. In conclusion, Full Metal Jacket is a great movie with scenes and images that will stick in your mind. Even now, so many of its' lines are brutally stolen with out the proper recongniton. So if you want a movie that realistically depicts war and that everyone likes (except the stupid Academy), go see SPR, but if you want a movie that expresses ideas through well-done characters and plot and goes its' own way; get a FULL tank of gas, put the pedal to the METAL, if it's cold, wear a JACKET, and rent that one movie.
on November 16, 2003
I watch movies such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Event Horizon, and other such gruesome mind-bending flicks, and I have to say that none affected like the boot camp scenes in Full Metal Jacket.
I don't know how realistic any of this film was, and I have to confess that I ceased to watch it after the final scene when Leonard kills the drill sergeant, then turns his gun on himself.
I've rated this 4 stars because it had such an impact on me, not necessarily because I really enjoyed it. I didn't, not in the slightest. But I do appreciate the incredible talent displayed by the likes of Vincent D'Onofrio.
The scenes that have stayed with me the most were firstly the assault on Leonard by his fellow recruits and, curiously, the scene when Leonard began to finally do things right. Ironically, this, along with the assault, marked the beginning of his break-down.
I won't say anymore on this film. I'm hoping that by putting something down of the effect it has had on me, that I'll be able to put it to the back of my mind.
Suffice to say, don't watch this if you don't want to see anything really confronting. Realistic or not, Full Metal Jacket is severe in the worst and best possible ways.
on April 21, 2003
JUST FOR THE RECORD: The Marines only drafted 4.9% of their fighting force during the Vietnam conflict. Most draftees were in the Army (50.5%). Although, there was pressure to volunteer so you could choose your branch of service, MOS, etc.
This film is not a realistic portrayal of the war in Vietnam, but it does illustrate Marine boot camp fairly well (from what ex-Marines have told me). R.Lee Ermey is excellent as the DI (he was a DI after all), and Private Pyle's character's experience was interesting (even with the unplausable ending).
It is the war in Nam where the movie gets silly and stupid. First of all, not every enlisted Marine was obsessed with sex and prostitution. Second, the way these soldiers behaved in combat (especially the NCOs) does not jive with the way they were trained. Third, the simple historical inaccuracies are troublesome and I am not a Vietnam war expert by any means.
Like many Kubrick movies, it gets wrapped up in the device and methods of filming versus story material. Yet, this is probably on of the easiest Kubrick films to watch. For that reason alone it is worth watching.