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Movie Review: Jarhead

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2 /5

Based on the recent book of the same name by Anthony Swofford, this is the other Gulf War film, after Three Kings, and it’s vastly inferior.

As the good guys drive to camp in Saudi Arabia, one of them comments on how bogus the war is and that it’s really about protecting the oil. And he quips about how the US armed Saddam Hussein. Despite this brief scene, the film doesn’t come across as being anti-war.

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While this film is based on actual memoirs, there’s no plot and you get a sense that you’ve seen it all before:
*the typically brutal drill sargeant at boot camp
*the harrowing training

*the usual male-bonding military rituals
*the lowest-common denominator language and interests of the restless marines, awaiting action in the gulf.

I kept on waiting for the story to unfold with some items of interest. Instead, Jarhead is a collection of observations. Witness the bulletin board in the camp with, plastered with photos of women who have left their soldier men for other men (collectively known as “Jody”), with warnings and insults scrawled on the photos. I didn’t realize that the metal drums that collect latrine waste are filled with fuel and burned. The scene where they stumble across a highway filled with hundreds of bomb-destroyed, charred vehicles with carbonized bodies, is jarring.

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Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the main character, Tony Swofford while Jamie Foxx stars his leader, Sgt Sykes. A dour Peter Sarsgaard plays Tony’s partner, a spotter to Tony’s scout sniper role. The acting is all right without anyone being particularly outstanding. No Oscar nominations here.

I really wanted this film to go places, but it just doesn’t have much of a purpose.

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About Triniman

Almost weekly, Triniman catches new movies, and adds one or two CDs to his collection. Due to time constraints, he blogs about only 5% of the CDs, books and DVDs that he purchases. Holed up in the geographic centre of North America, the cultural mecca of Canada, and the sunniest city north of the 49th, Winnipeg, Triniman blogs a bit when he's not swatting mosquitoes, shoveling snow or golfing.
  • Your observation that the film feels like it has no purpose seems to simply validate the success of the film to me. After being trained for months to do nothing but kill and become the most efficient killing machines possible, the soldiers find never find themselves in a combat situation. Months of preparation and there is no purpose; nothing to show for the hardships they’ve endured.

    I feel that the film captured this experience of frustration and castration perfectly. I certainly can’t argue with the way this made you feel; if the film didn’t work for you, then so be it. I just think it’s important to understand that this feeling was possibly what the filmmakers were trying to achieve. That tactic may work to varying degrees of success with various viewers, but I think it’s important to wonder if your reaction to the unresolved suspense was perhaps the same anger the soldiers themselves felt, and perhaps the film was more effective in eliciting it’s intended response than you may have percieved.

  • Bryan;

    Your comments may be right on the money, if that’s what the filmmakers intended. I actually thought about how the film reflected the whole wait and wait and wait feeling many of the soldiers felt. When there was combat, a lot of the bad guys were taken care of by the airforce. All that training and waiting for pretty much nothing. Even so, to me, the film could have made its point without being so slow itself. Or maybe that’s just asking too much.

    Good observations, Bryan.

  • Bryan McKay

    I don’t think it’s asking too much. The film might not have worked for you, and that’s a perfectly valid response. I just think it’s important to look at a film’s success of failure independently of your personal reaction, although both are equally valid judgments.

  • Looking at the film independent of my personal reaction, I would agree with your first set of comments, more or less.

  • Chris

    I thought this was a great movie. You can look at this movie in two ways, first about how the airforce did alot of the work. Another way you can look at it is by the reaction of the people who saw the movie. I went to see it with my friend. Before the movie I asked him why he is going to see it and he said because it was about a sniper. I think thats why most people wanted to see it, because they wanted to see sombodies head get blown off my our awesome military force. At the end of the movie I asked him if he liked it and he said, it was ok. He said that because you didnt see anyone get killed. I think this is a good movie to show how much we want to see somebody else get killed by our military. And i thought to my self, why do we want to that stuff, somebody else getting killed

  • reggie

    Jar-head…Jug-head (archie)
    I know it sounds silly but that’s the reason i can’t take this movie seriously.