I don’t have too much expirience in war movies. And I’ve only seen a handful of Stanley Kurbrick’s work (2001, Eyes Wide Shut, Clockwork Orange), to which I thought were overrated. So Full Metal Jacket wasn’t too high up there on my expectation scale. Was I blown away by the Vietnam War Drama? Not particularly, but I did think it was really good.
The film is basically shown in two parts. The first, we meet Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermay), quite possibly the most vulgar, demoralizing character in film history. His job is to shape a bunch of normal American boys into trained killers: Marines. We soon focus on three young men, Gomer Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio), Cowboy (Arliss Howard), and Joker (Matthew Modine). The film kind of just throws you into training, and 30 minutes later, you’re still there. However, the transformation of the group, especially Pyle, keeps you watching, even though it is pretty subtle. Eventually, they all pass, even Pyle, who had the most difficult time. It was not, however, without some loss. Pyle goes through a mental breakdown which leads to catastrophe. How Kubrick made the transformation between the beginning, where he is one of the most lovable characters, and you feel bad for him, to the evil stares he shows off at the end of the first half is beyond me. Like I said before, the biggest accomplishment is making the routine of everyday life for the recruits watchable. For the most part we see most of the same things over and over.
Finally, we go over to Vietnam with Joker, who is now a reporter for Stars and Stripes. He eventually meets up with Cowboy, who is now second in command of the Lusthog Squad. Here, the film goes off in a few directions, from hookers to snipers. But the beauty of it, is that you know how these men were prepared to deal with the craziness of war. Yeah, getting called names was bad, but is it worse than seeing fellow comrades getting shot day after day? It shows a side of war that is rare in fictional films. You see how a normal person can turn into a killer.
My Rating: B