Jarhead
Director: Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition, American Beauty)
Writer: William Broyles Jr. (screenplay)
        Anthony Swofford (book)
Producer: Lucy Fisher, Sam Mendes
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper
MPAA Rating:R
read my spoiler disclaimer



     Marine experiences in the first Gulf war taken from the grunt's point of view. I think I remember seeing this released the first time out when it was called Full Metal Jacket, but I could be mistaken. The acting and overall "feel" of the film is nothing short of breathtaking, but for it to be a good movie experince, something has to happen. Alas, it never does.

      War number one with Saddam was over in about a week. As short as it was, that's about how long this film seemed to go on for. It is the story of one man's experience (Gyllenhaal) through boot camp and then "into the suck;" as they call it in the marines. I'm sure the depiction is pretty realistic, but that's not always a good thing in a movie. Sometimes we need un-realism to rivet us to the edge of our seat. Watching these guys argue over trivial crap, masturbate incessantly and generally just play grab-ass with each other for an hour gets awfully dull; even if the performances are tremendous.

      It's interesting for a while - you get to see what real marine life was like over there. A lot of waiting and not much action. But being a Hollywood movie that is so extremely well-done, I kept waiting for the big action ending. Then I waited a little, shifted in my seat as the characters contemplated their lives when they get back home, stretched my back as they droned on and on about their girlfriends and wives leaving them one by one, then I waited some more. Not one rifle was fired. Just a lot of yelling and in-fighting. Although I'll say it again, it was all done very well.

      I get the whole thing. It's an introspect on marine life waiting for a war to start that never will for the ground troops. It dives headfirst into the emotion and painful being, that is a marine waiting for combat. The politics and the why's and how's are all left behind for a film about humanity and relationships of all kinds and levels. Scene for scene it packs power, emotion and fabulous shots; but this can only go on for so long. Without a tangible antagonist, the film goes nowhere.

      Finally towards the end of the movie we see our protagonists called upon for an important sniper mission, but even that ends without incident and life goes on. You may leave the theater scratching your head on this one: what was the point? Maybe even wondering if there really was a war in Kuwait at all. I checked my watch as I left the theater: less than a two hour running time. I could've sworn I was in there for over three hours.

     




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drewbacca@moviepatron.com