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For his third feature film, British director Sam Mendes (AMERICAN BEAUTY) turns to the pages of Anthony Swofford's 2003 book on his experiences in the first Gulf War, and enlists William Broyles Jr.--a former Lieutenant who fought in Vietnam--to convert it into a screenplay. Mendes's film strays into FULL METAL JACKET territory as it opens, with young recruit Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) undertaking some rigorous basic training under the steely, watchful eye of Staff Sgt. Sykes (Jamie Foxx). Impressed, Sykes invites Swofford to join his team, and partners him with Troy (Peter Sarsgaard), ultimately taking them to Saudi Arabia to fight in the first Gulf War. But once they arrive in the punishing heat of the desert, the long wait for battle sends many of the Marines dangerously close to the brink of insanity. <br> <br> Drawing on the experience of acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION) to help viewers get a close-up taste of the Marines' punishing life in the desert, Mendes's fil...

Based on Anthony Swofford’s excellentmemoirabout his experiences as a Marine Sniper in Gulf War I,Jarheadis a war movie in which the waiting is a far greater factor upon the characters than the war itself, and the build up to combat is more drama than what combat is depicted. To some viewers hoping for typical movie action, this will seem like a cruel joke. But it’s not. It’s just the story as it was written, and if you liked the book, you will probably like the movie. If you didn’t, then the movie won’t change your mind.

The movie follows the trajectory of Swofford (played with thoughtful intensity by Jake Gyllenhaal) from wayward Marine recruit (he joined because he "got lost on the way to college") to skilled Marine sniper, and on into the desert in preparation for the attack on Iraq. No-nonsense, Marine-for-life Staff Sgt. Sykes (Jamie Foxx), the man who recruited Swofford and his spotter Troy (Peter Sarsgaard) into the sniper team, leads them in training, and in waiting where their lives are dominated by endless tension, pointless exercises in absurdity (like playing football in the scorching heat of the desert in their gas masks so it will look better for the media’s TV cameras), more training, and constant anticipation of the moment to come when they’ll finally get to kill. When the war does come, it moves too fast for Swofford’s sniper team, and the one chance they get at a kill--to do the one thing they’ve trained so hard and waited so long for--eludes them, leaving them to wonder what was the point of all they had endured.

As directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty), the movie remains very loyal to the language and vision of the book, but it doesn’t entirely work as the film needs something more than a literal translation to bring out its full potential. Mendes’s stark and, at times, apocalyptic visuals add a lot and strike the right tone: wide shots of inky-black oil raining down on the vast, empty desert from flaming oil wells contrasted with close-ups of crude-soaked faces struggling through the mire vividly bring to life the meaning of the tagline "welcome to the suck." But much of the second half of the movie will probably leave some viewers feeling disappointed in the cinematic experience, while others might appreciate its microcosmic depiction of modern chaos and aimlessness. Jarhead is one of those examples where the book is better than the movie, but not for lack of trying. --Dan Vancini

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More Jarhead (2005 movie) reviews
review by . May 11, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Good soporific      Cons: It is too dull to have any real cons      The Bottom Line: Who knew that war could be more dull than an English drawing room?      Plot Details: This opinion reveals everything about the movie''s plot.      Looking through the very helpful reviews of Jarhead, I noticed that even the reviewers who didn’t particularly like the film still rated it fairly high. I’m not …
review by . June 01, 2006
This film had received bad reviews from a political standpoint. I read a couple before I saw this film. They mostly didn't like it because.......what they say again............ O yeah,because it had no message or stance. To that I say good. It was refreshing to see a movie as a movie. I was glad that it was just a story, and there wasn't any motivation underneath it. That's not to say that the movie is one dimensional. There are many undertones, just none of which are attempting to reassert or defame …
review by . May 27, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
"Jarhead" is a marine expression that describes a recruit as an open vessel waiting to be filled by the commanders that be and by the haircut that makes the marine look like one. The movie is a recollection of the first Persian Gulf War, told from the point of view of Private Anthony Swofford (who wrote the book, but is played by Jake Gyllenhall) and his trek from marine recruit until the end of Operation Desert Storm. The war only lasted six weeks, and his contributions only four days, but the …
review by . March 08, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Were intentions graded instead of product, then JARHEAD would be given 4 stars rather than 3, merely because it is one of the few films (so far) that shows the particular idiosyncrasies of that first Bush war, the DESERT SHIELD transforming into DESERT STORM. We have many films that document the mindset of the soldiers from the Civil War through the two World Wars, to Korean War to Vietnam War and each is different. JARHEAD is as much about the changes that have occurred in the American military …
review by . November 04, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard     Cons: ....     The Bottom Line: "Welcome to the jungle   It gets worse here everyday   Ya learn ta live like an animal   In the jungle where we play   Guns-n-Roses        God, in His infinite wisdom, had the forethought to let my brother join the Marines when we were between wars. He got out of the Marines just a few months before the casualty known …
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"Jarhead - Hoorah"
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