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Movie Review: Jarhead

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What’s a Marine to do in a war dominated by air power?

Based on the memoir by the same name Jarhead is an intelligent, moving look at Marines who trained for years to be soldiers only to participate in a war where their talents were not needed.

Jarhead documents the journey of Anthony Swofford from recruit to Marine Scout Sniper in Desert Storm. It’s a sort of biopic that drags at times and several scenes tend to drag on, like we all knew his girlfriend was going to leave him, but they spent about 20 minutes of movie show that.

Overall it has a feeling of other war movies like Catch-22, Apocalypse Now and Platoon but has a wholly independent feeling. There are some hauntingly powerful scenes and once they actually start marching into

Jamie Foxx gives a powerful performance as Staff Sargant Sikes. Peter Sarsgaard continues his part as delivering powerful performances in supporting roles. Also Jake Gyllenhall buffed up and proved he actually can act and not just look pretty, so that was nice for him.

Swofford has described his book a pro-war story and the movie reflects that to a certain point. It leaves out parts of Swofford’s book where he said the whole invasion felt like a publicity stunt and that the war was about oil and personal fortunes.

It’s a gripping piece and is probably one of Universal’s best bets for Oscar gold. I could easily see nominations for Jake Gyllenhall for lead actor, Peter Sarsgaard for supporting actor, Sam Mendes for direction and possibly best picture nod as well.
ed: JH

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About Eric James

  • Thanks for the review Matt.

    I had been under the impression this was either an anti-Iraq war film or a rabidly pro-Iraq war film (neither of which sounded appealing), but I had just read – before coming to BC – that it was really neither.

    “A lot of people waiting” seems to be the film, with very few actual battle scenes (I have not seen it myself) or few other “truth” moments.

    The best moment is probably in the trailer, with Foxx laconically saying, “hooo-rah.”

  • I thought this one one of the best films I have seen all year. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so emotionally and intellectually engaged (at the same time) in a movie theatre. Swofford’s book may be pro-war, but I didn’t get that feeling from the film. I didn’t feel like it was an anti-war film, per se, but I felt like the way the filmmakers handled the psychological and personal effects of war certainly did a fair job exploring the personal horrors of being a soldier.

    I suppose each person can walk out of it with a different interpretation depending on their own views on war. For me, this film seemed to have more of an objective, documentarian stance than most war films which are decidedly pro- or anti-war. Mendes and crew show things the way they are and don’t make moral evaluations of even the most seemingly reprehensible characters. The filmmakers leave it mainly to the viewer to cast the final judgment, although one gets the impression after seeing the film that perhaps it is impossible to judge unless one has personally and directly experienced the trauma and effects of war.

  • Emory Childers

    I have both read the book and seen the movie – as an enlisted Marine I can this:

    Jarhead is a rediculous syeriotype – no where did I see an NCO or SNCO step up and correct the issue that these young devildogs had; the only ray of light in the whole thing was Jamie Foxx as the Ssgt. Other than that, where were my motivated Sgts and Cpl.’s at? And why didn’t they snatch up and fix their Lcpl’s and PFC’s?

    Where did that Officer come from when the snipers where about to engage? – and who the hell is going carry a bright blue and white lawn chair to a Forward Observation Point?

    I have many issue with this movie – though I did like the book alot more – bottom line is that swafford is not your avarage Marine – I’m sorry he sat in the sand box and did get any, but he is still a “cry babby” (can’t use the term I want).
    I’ve seen 17 year old marines put up with alot more than just waiting –

    In the end is it my expert opinion that with the exception of certain training elements and persons Jarhead is an BS Hollywood movie that is more representative of the Army than of the Marine Corps.

    Childers out-