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Important War Film? I Think Not

  • Feb 12, 2008
I was talking to a co-worker one time and we were talking about movies that left huge impressions on us visually. See, we couldn't agree on what could be considered "great writing" for a movie, so the conversation shifted to visuals, which should have been an easier conversation to have. It wasn't. His idea of a visually stunning movie was "The Fast and the Furious," mainly because of how many explosions and cut-away editing tricks that were on display. He asked me what movies I felt were visually stimulating, and I gave him two names: Tim Burton and Stanley Kubrick. Though he was familiar with Burton, Kubrick's films were a mystery to him. I don't know why. Even if you haven't seen a Kubrick film, many of how movies have iconic images in them.

I counted three in his Vietnam film "Full Metal Jacket." Aside from those three images though, "Full Metal Jacket" is easily the most visually stunning Vietnam film I've ever seen. It is haunting to look at, and the tone of the film from the facial expressions, to the color, to the shadows create images that seem to drill right into your eyes, leaving them in your head for the rest of your life. That said, while "Full Metal Jacket" will evoke emotions from you for it's powerful imagery, the movie is, sadly, a shallow shell. The problem, I believe, comes in the fact that the movie never really establishes an emotional connection with the audience, even when the visuals do establish something. In fact, if I were to be fair, I'd go as far as to say this was actually two movies merged into one.

The first half is the more story oriented of the two, but still confusing. At first we're under the impression that the protagonist of the movie is the cold-hearted Gunnery Sergeant Hartman ®. Lee Ermey), who takes up most of the first half hour of the film, barking orders and abusing the trainees. It's at this point though a kind soul, the overweight Leonard Lawrence (Vincent D'Onofrio), who starts the film as a shy boy, but then slowly goes mad thanks to the humiliating training. During the second half of the film though, the movie drops these two stories and follows Joker (Matthew Modine), a fellow Marian trainee during the first half of the film, who's now been promoted to sergeant and is fighting in Vietnam. At this point any narrative the film attempted to establish before is lost.

The rest of the film is about American soldiers killing innocent Vietnam families, side stories about how the soldiers horny needs aren't being met, and one of the strangest war scenes I've seen, where a film crew films a shoot out with the famous sixties song "Surfin Bird" playing in the background. The movie begins with a hopeless situation and go absolutely nowhere. It's an exercise in futility, where the only thing to see are people going mad. There are no characters to connect with, no larger story arc to follow, and no hidden meaning. Just a bunch of soldiers going crazy to the tune of odd songs and visual tricks. It looks stunning, but I found I just didn't care much at the end of the day.

Rating: ** stars

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Quick Tip by . October 21, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Its 2 movies, the first half good the second ... ehhhh. R. Lee Ermy plays the drill sergeant in the good half and drives hysterical scenes. I think it's supposed to be an anti-war movie, which is the ehhhhh part. It would have been a more convincing comment on "the duality of the universe" if the first 45 minutes hadn't been extremely effective dark comedy.
review by . May 06, 2009
Full Metal Jacket is Stanley Kubrick's entry into the Vietnam War movie sweepstakes that occurred during the eighties. But to be fair to Stanley Kubrick he planned out this film many moons before the others. But due to his infamous lengthy pre-production schedules, this one took forever to be released. The entire film was shot in England (his new home) and all the sets were built from scratch. Because of the subject matter, he received no military assistance from Uncle Sam. The movie was based upon …
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Kevin T. Rodriguez ()
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Kevin T. Rodriguez is an aspiring film journalist. He's more comfortable typing a review then doing an on-camera appearance, but he loves doing the occasional rant. Whether it be on movies, eBay, or comics, … more
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Based upon the novel "The Short-Timers" written by co-screenplay writer Gustav Hasford.

Stanley Kubrick's 1987, penultimate film seemed to a lot of people to be contrived and out of touch with the '80s vogue for such intensely realistic portrayals of theVietnam WarasPlatoonandThe Deer Hunter. Certainly, Kubrick gave audiences plenty of reason to wonder why he made the film at all: essentially a two-part drama that begins on a Parris Island boot camp for rookie Marines and abruptly switches to Vietnam (actually shot on sound stages and locations near London),Full Metal Jacketcomes across as a series of self-contained chapters in a story whose logical and thematic development is oblique at best. Then again, much the same was said about Kubrick's2001: A Space Odyssey, a masterwork both enthralled with and satiric about the future's role in the unfinished business of human evolution. In a way,Full Metal Jacketis the wholly grim counterpart of2001. While the latter is a truly 1960s film, both wide-eyed and wary, about the intertwining of progress and isolation (ending in our redemption, finally, by death),Full Metal Jacketis a cynical, Reagan-era view of the 1960s' hunger for experience and consciousness that fulfilled itself in violence. Lee Ermey made film history as the Marine drill instructor whose ritualized debasement of men in the name of tribal uniformity creates its darkest angel in a murderous half-wit (Vincent D'Onofrio). Matthew ...
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