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Jarhead

A movie directed by Sam Mendes

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Fills Us in with Operation Desert Storm

  • May 27, 2006
Rating:
+3
"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 process he undergoes is absorbing. "Swoff" undergoes initiation and later reluctance until he meets his command leader Sgt. Sykes (Jamie Fox) who gets him ready. His biggest challenge is keeping a fellow marine in check (Fowler, an ex-con) who seems unstable at best and incorrigible at worst.

The movie isn't as intense as the most acclaimed war movies, but it isn't less insightful. We are given a palpable reality. The scenes show the urgency of missing women, the boredom and agony of anticipation, and the wild comraderie in all its details. The best scenes are when the narrative focuses on Swoff separate from his brigade and he shares his inner angst. The dream sequence tells more than any scene and has a surreal stream-of-consciousness effect. We also get a first-person feel to when they have to play football in the grueling 112 degree heat. Other revelations are done well, too. For instance, their frenzy is present when watching "Apocolyse Now". There's an interview scene where Swoff and others show their reluctance to follow the military's command to keep silence about the downside of being a recruit. (They're just brimming to tell it like it is.) Later, Swoff gets into big trouble during a holiday party where he shares contraband liquor. The war itself, for all its brevity, in the movie and in real life, just tells the unvarnished truth. It shows the war, like any war, in all its mundane horror. Swoff leaves us with some concrete thoughts about how his experience changed him forever.

"Jar Head" is a good movie experience. It feels genuine. The performances are fine, too. Gyllenhall makes the experience authentic, and the supporting cast is believable throughout. Jamie Fox, in particular, shows an acting range here that makes us appreciate his other contributions. (His Oscar for "Ray" seems all the more deserving after seeing this film.) The music and other atmospherics help to create a solid movie--even if it doesn't brim with suspense. Overall, it doesn't try to sensationalize anything. (3 1/2-4 stars)

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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 . 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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John L. Peterson ()
Ranked #100
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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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 ...
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