Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Reel 25

"God has a hard-on for Marines…”

This month marks the 25th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s FULL METAL JACKET.
An adaptation of the 1979 novel THE SHORT-TIMERS by Gustav Hasford, FULL METAL JACKET follows a platoon of U.S. Marines through recruit training, and the experiences of two Marines of the platoon during the Vietnam War.

Although often looked at as an anti-war film, Kubrick’s mission was to present a realistic picture of war. The film begins the way every soldier’s military career starts; in boot camp. Serving as an extended prologue, the boot camp storyline is powered by R. Lee Emery’s remarkable performance as the ruthless Drill Instructor. Emery, a former Marine himself, ad-libbed most of his lines, and his performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination.
Once the film graduates boot camp and shifts to the war, the story transforms. Where the boot camp sequence seemed to follow a focused storyline, the rest of the film tracks along with no real shape; there is no endgame, no mission, no ultimate goal for the heroes to reach. This was perhaps Kubrick’s idea of what war is; nonsensical killing with no endgame.

Using the Tet Offensive as a backdrop, Kubrick veered the film away from the traditional Hollywood ‘Nam film which always kept things in the jungle. With burnt-out husks of buildings serving as set-pieces, the film has a dismal look to it; perhaps another subtle message by Kubrick. And the photography stands as one of Kubrick’s best. His constant eye for depth-of-field is always present. If FULL METAL JACKET was ever converted to (goddamn) 3D, the depth of the film would look incredible.
With two family members having served in the Vietnam War, this Blogger readily accepted FULL METAL JACKET into the upper echelon of ‘Nam films. The initial viewing was scary; the boot camp was enough to frighten anyone away from signing up, and the revelation of the sniper at the climax still remains a shocker. FULL METAL JACKET often gets overlooked because it is unfairly compared to Oliver Stone’s PLATOON, which won Best Picture the year before. But JACKET stands on a different world than PLATOON. It is a birds-eye view of the war; philosophical and moral, with just enough blood to make the grass grow.

“The dead only know one thing: it is better to be alive.”

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