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Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket seems like an uncompleted film, but to me that's poetic justice to one of America's uncompleted wars. The film is harsh and doesn't turn a blind eye to the atrocities of Vietnam. Kubrick is the true master of atmosphere in film. He makes you feel like you are there. Friends of mine have commented that they only like the first half of the film and that the second half falls apart. I believe Kubrick sets up the first half to be an understandable reflection of the terror that would eventually enter the lives of these soldiers during war. It is easy to identify with being picked on because we all have in some way. Not all of us, on the other hand, have fought in war. Kubrick is the master.
NO SPOILERS! This is a review, not a synopsis.
First of all I love Kubrick's work, so I came into this with a bias. However I have seen a lot of action and war films, and this one, to an individual who never went to war, seems the most true-to-life, taken as a whole. This IS how you have to look at this film, incidentally; trying to break it down into two or three parts and say which was better is missing the point of the film, I think.
In the same way that "Trainspotting" was an anti-drug film that did not gloss over anything, "Full Metal Jacket" is (for me) an anti-war film that stares straight at the ugliness of war and the potential for violence within almost all people, especially those trained, conditioned, even twisted, into military roles, without preaching even a single time. Less allegory and more applicability! Wonderful!
The camera work was superb. I felt like I was walking through the movie with the Marines, from the barracks to the battlefield scenes.
I have seen others criticize this film for the voice over, but I felt that it was used sparingly, and was helpful, not overdone. The narrator doesn't say anything that seems out-of-place.
Others have commented on the music, the acting, and so on, so I won't add my repetitive comments, except that the drill sergeant is perfect!
The combination of the demented treatment the recruits receive in boot camp with the combined "hours of boredom, seconds of terror" feel of the Vietnam scenes is intense and not for everyone, but feels REAL.
10 out of 10, perfect.
I like Kubrick's stuff. Generally any movie he directed was several
in quality terms, above any other director (particularly those working
nowdays). Does `Full Metal Jacket' continue to show the mastermind behind
`2001', `The Shining' and `Dr. Strangelove'? Yup, it does.
As plots go. there isn't much here. I don't particularly care because the script makes up for it. `Full Metal Jacket' is very much a movie of two halves - the first half dealing with a group of conscripts in training at military camp and the hardships they endure under their `hard-as-nails' instructor. The second half is about their exploits in Vietnam itself. Fights? In 'Nam? Haven't we seen all that before? Yes, but rarely with such an experienced hand at work. And it's the camp scenes that are so wonderful.
Gustav Hasford et. Al. have produced an excellent script, particularly for the opening hour. There's barely a moment's pause before you're thrown into the screaming face of Sergeant Hartman. He's hurling abuse at his new recruits with lines so forceful and sharp they'll have you gasping in shock while simultaneously laughing in incredulity. It's the way the script runs in without a pause for breath that helps so wonderfully - and the fact that it's so powerful. It's never just about one-liners from a sergeant, it's also telling a story about how humans work under these conditions. The first half is about how they suffer under their own at home (and very well told it is too), the second half about the human condition under the duress of war. It's an interesting comparison, and a tale well told. The battle may lack some sort of overall context or resolution, but then I feel that's in keeping with the movie - it's about the individual, and not the war, and such elements cannot be easily quantified.
All the characters have a grounded `real world' feel to them, due to both the material and the versatility of the actors. R. Lee Emery is viciously delightful as the manic Sergeant Hartman, while managing to add occasional touches of humanity and a `this is for your own good' attitude through subtle gestures. Matthew Modine is the amiable lead, Private Joker, and as such balances the hard and soft edges admirably (if not spectacularly). The other stand out though is Vincent D'Onofrio as Private Gomer Pyle, the recruit picked upon by Hartman and the other cadets. There's a wonderful innocence about him in the beginning, which transforms into a frightening hardening of his soul later on. The evil/beyond-hope look he gives later on (anyone who has seen the movie will know the one I mean), remains as the most frightening look I've ever seen depicted onscreen. All in all the cast accredit themselves well here.
And so to the direction. It's Kubrick. It's good. Once more there's excellent cinematography - check out the haunting, almost claustrophobic landscapes of Vietnam. There's some lovely use of filters (that haunting blue). There's a brilliant subtle score, that's eerie when used, but never intrusive. There's a very good command of pace - the viewer is never left idle or bored, and the story (particularly in the tremendous first half) flows along smoothly. Great touches abound throughout - check out the many examples, such as the opening scene of Hartman marching right up to the recruits (and to the camera), spitting and screaming vindictive comments, almost as if at the viewer. Some may criticise the almost disconnected feeling you have in the battle scenes towards the end, but I found their stillness, their quietness, and raw power, far more effective than the flash-bang wizardry employed in tripe such as `We Were Heroes'. I can blather on about Kubrick for ages. so I'll stop now.
Is `Full Metal Jacket' perfect? Not quite because of the `two halves' syndrome. Although they do contrast and complement one another, the first half is very much the stronger half. The second feels weaker against it. In and of itself the second half would normally be regarded well, but it doesn't have the visceral power that the first does. I love both bits, but I do love one bit more. This makes the movie suffer just a little. There's so much to like here though that I can't criticise too much - and so much to cherish (especially in the lines delved out). Once more the main man succeeds. Definetely worth seeing. 9/10.
Legendary Stanley Kubrick - probably the most ingenious film-maker of our
time - directed only two movies in the 80's. Someone could thoughtlessly
claim that it was a very bad and a slow decade for him but on the contrary:
the films happened to be "The Shining" (1980) - the darkest, the greatest
and most frightening, superb and impressive horror movie ever made - and
"Full Metal Jacket" (1987) the finest war movie in the history of motion
picture. The fact that he directed the most beloved classics of two
completely different genre is simply unbelievable.
First half of "Full Metal Jacket" is spectacular. Lee Ermey's Drill Instructor Hartman ("I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless") is probably the most hateful, forbidding and repulsive character in the history of Kubrick's movies. Jack Nicholson in "The Shining" was like a kitten compared to him. The fact that he is so overdone and the dialogue written to him is so sarcastic, biting and clever makes him also the funniest part of "Full Metal Jacket". Even though this is one of the most pressuring Kubrick movies first half can also be seen as an extremely dark comedy.
Rest of the cast is just as excellent. Matthew Modine in the leading role as Private Joker is simply fabulous but I guess most of the sympathies goes to Vincent D'Onofrio's unforgettable Private Pyle. Audience really feels sorry for him because he's the most regrettable victim of the training period that turns perfectly ordinary nice blokes into merciless killers. Actually I'm not sure if this is the greatest war movie ever made. I've always had my difficulties of choosing between "Full Metal Jacket" and Francis Ford Coppola's outstanding "Apocalypse. Now." Both of these films really shows what war is really about. War is never justified, war is never good. Therefore I think war movie should never glorify war but rather show it as what it really is: nightmarish hell. Second half of "Full Metal Jacket" does it. That makes it probably the most pacifistic war movie I've ever seen.
Interesting fact: at the end of "Full Metal Jacket" soldiers walk on the battlefield and sing an absurd and silly Mickey Mouse marching song. Childish and senseless marching songs of the first half were very comical. This one should be rather funny too but at this time the audience has already seen way too much. This kind of humor no longer amuses and makes you laugh. Song is the final crown of "Full Metal Jacket". It gives the last touch to all this irrationality and I'm positive that was also Kubrick's intention. I'm pretty sure that this is Stanley Kubrick's greatest movie right after excellent "A Clockwork Orange". Magnificent Masterpiece with a capital M. 10 out of 10.
Though I've read only a couple of dozen of the nearly 500 comments on
this film, I didn't see any from ex-Marines who'd had the Parris Island
experience. I went through PI in 1957. The time period in the picture
would have been about 1967, since the in-country sequence includes the
'68 Tet Offensive. Little had changed in those 10 years except the
switch from M1s to M16s.
For the most part Kubrick got Parris Island right on the money. And why shouldn't he have, since his screen DI, Lee Ermey was in fact a real DI before he started acting (he played another DI in "The Boys of Company C," an earlier and lesser Vietnam flick)? He had a built- in technical adviser. The screams and insults and profanity and physical punishment were all part of the DIs armamentarium. When you're facing up to 75 young strangers you need to immediately establish absolute authority and hang on to it for 13 weeks. Furthermore, you want to break the breakable as soon as you can. My platoon had its Private Pyles and though none ended up as he does in "Full Metal Jacket," I remember that they simply disappeared from our ranks, never to be heard from again. Nothing Ermey as Sgt. Hartman does is exaggerated.
Kubrick, however, does exaggerate. Speaking of Pyle's ending, it's almost impossible for me to imagine that a recruit could manage to sneak a clip of live rounds away from the rifle range. Every shooter at the range has his own rifle coach, and every single round is very carefully accounted for. Kubrick started the killing one scene too early.
I've read that DIs nowadays are forbidden to use the time-honored f-word, and are not allowed to lay hands on recruits. I don't know if that's good or bad for training (I had my face slapped hard my first day of boot camp and that was just for openers), but then all of us old-timers like to brag about how tough it useta be!
A final note: It's interesting to compare "Full Metal Jacket" to another attempt at a portrayal of Parris Island, Jack Webb's "The DI," made around '55 or '56. Webb tries for authenticity, but as I was to learn a year or so later, his PI was a boy scout camp.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Full Metal Jacket" is one of the legends of any service person in
basic training. As a young recruit in the Army, we talked about it, and
we talked about it further and it is one of those movies that you
always find something new to say about. The beginning, the young men
come to be trained as "killers." And it is at this point where you may
realize later that not everyone is meant to be in the military,
example, Leonard (Pyle.) He is a nice kid with probably a good sense of
humor, probably liked among for his sense of humor and would have done
better in college, but instead is in the Marine Corp where he does not
fit in well. Then you have Hartman (excellent portrayal by Gunny Ermy)
who has the heartless job of making killers out of these young men. It
is here that you question if he is truly mean spirited or is doing what
he knows he has to do by being as hard as he can so that these young
men will survive the horrors of war. This is a point that I think is
sometimes missed. Joker, a rather smart young man, attempts to take
Leonard under his wing and the two become friends until Leonard messes
up and is given a "blanket party" by the rest of the platoon. Hartman
is the reason for this, but behind this hides another reason; he has to
make them tough and solid so that they will work as a team and have
each other's backs in combat. He knows this to be true, but no one else
does. This sends Leonard into a psychotic break and for a while,
Hartman begins to show interest in Leonard due to his progress. Joker,
noticing the change in Leonard, does not bring this to anyone's
attention and thus begins his journey through his own private war
because he believes from his inaction, he may have been the cause for
the aftermath of the confrontation of Leonard and Hartman and the
eventual fate of Leonard.
After that, the movie shifts and they are in Vietnam and only then does Joker begin to see why Hartman was so mean as he sees his friends become more like Leonard and may be destined to share his fate. When the young sniper is shot is when a part of humanity returns to Joker and we are left to guess at what follows.
The performances by Ermy, Modine and D'Onofrio were remarkable, especially D'Onofrio. I often wonder what went on behind the scenes, especially with a seasoned Marine war vet such as R. Lee Ermy on the set. I often wonder how much he contributed to the movie as an actual adviser.
By the way, I am a Gulf War I Army Veteran and I am female, so it could be that I may be looking at this differently. Females usually were not in combat situations, but some were. I do wish the movie would have shown that a little, but as far as making you think, I think the movie did what it was suppose to do.
Stanley Kubrick always managed to bring
something new to his palate whenever he
made a film. He brought dark comedy to the
screen with Dr. Stranglove, an epic story with
Spartacus, and a film more important for its
efforts than box office potential in the film
Paths of Glory. This is what makes Full Metal
Jacket so entertaining.
Humor, horror and political commentary are the themes which shape Full Metal Jacket. From the overbearing drill sergeant to the war loving soldiers. It all seems to make sense within this film, never overstepping its bounds or being to subtle. Kubrick may have alienated some his hardcore fans with such a mainstream-type story, but then again, he helped mainstream movies take a bold step. What doesn't the current cinema owe Kubrick?
One of the greatest war movies ever, a statement very few will dispute. I will therefore not illustrate this point : thousands have done it before me, often brilliantly.I'd rather lay the stress on Kubrick's modernity in "Full Metal Jacket". Indeed the USA being once again at war, it is interesting to compare the way they wage war these days with the way they did back in the sixties. And the comparison is edifying. Just apply the following statements to Iraq and you will realize NOTHING HAS CHANGED : - the marines are trained to become killing machines without being taught minimum knowledge about the people they come to defend. - the boys know nothing about the Vietnamese and reason according to American standards : for instance "Cow-Boy" complains half-jokingly half-seriously that there are no horses in Vietnam. Another example is the soldiers singing the Mickey Mouse Club hymn after fighting, which strikes as particularly out of place. - they try in vain to impose democracy through gruesome violence and destruction. Such similarities abound and testify to the film's absolute - and unfortunate - modernity. I wish Kubrick was still with us. I also wish George Bush and his advisers had seen this masterpiece and - most of all - understood its message. They would have avoided another bloody war doomed to fail.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first third of Stanley Kubrick's take on the Vietnam War is as
powerful and shocking as any film ever made about the military
In the film's opening shots, we see close-ups of new Marine recruits getting their heads shaved at a military training post The next shot follows Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) as he strides through a barracks and completes the first stage of the young men's intimidating indoctrination into the Marine Corps The scene also establishes the measured pace that Kubrick maintains throughout
Booming, gloriously profane, and imaginative, Sgt. Hartman is a force of nature that will mold these boys into killing machines At that point, most war films would turn to the young men, sketch out their pasts and then show their transformation into a cohesive unit These kids are names and archetypes who will react differently to Hartman's approach
Kubrick makes Ermey such a mesmerizing force that one key early element is easy to overlook From the first moment we see him in the barber's chair, before we even know his name, it is abundantly clear that Leonard is mad He has that familiar vacant, smiling, dull-eyed expression of evil that Kubrick also uses to define Little Alex in "A Clockwork Orange" and Jack Torrance in "The Shining." The other characters do not see it, and so the inevitable confrontation between Hartman and Leonard is all the more horrifying
The middle section of the film establishes Joker's role as a war reporter, working behind the lines during the Tet Offensive of 1968, and his desire for some "trigger time" with his old pals from basic That's where Kubrick shapes his view of the Vietnam war
In the third part, a new sociopath named Animal Mother (Adam Baldwin) is introduced, and the focus shifts to a patrol searching through the bombed out city of Hue to root out a sniper That is where the filmmakers comment most pointedly on the war itself They see it as a dead-end that serve no purpose That's certainly a valid artistic interpretation of history Many other films have made the same points, often more eloquently But Kubrick isn't interested in eloquence, either
The three sections are unmistakably separated from each other The first stands on its own though key elements are stated again at the end
For the viewer expecting a "traditional" war film, the result is disconcerting, frustrating, and somehow unfinished Most Kubrick fans will admit that "Paths of Glory" and "Dr. Strangelove" are more enjoyable, but even if their man is not in top form, "Full Metal Jacket" is challenging, and repeated viewings reveal more details and connections
"With flowers and my love both never to come back ... It's not easy
facing up when your whole world is black". So sings the man whose
throbbing song marks the film's end, merciless lyrics to describe
thematically a story that is as wrenching as it is mesmerizing.
There are no villains in this film, only heroic victims. The villains are all off-screen, comfy behind mahogany desks, or dressed for success and giving shrill speeches about how maintaining peace requires war. Strange logic.
First it's boot camp, a dreary prospect at best, for an ordinary group of young American men. Here, a sadistic drill Sargent, in colorful language, barks out orders and insults straight from Hades. It's do or die, almost literally, for our greenhorns. It's an ordeal of blackness from which some may never recover. Still, the grunts learn a valuable lesson; namely, that life is mostly physical, not mental. It's a lesson some ivory tower college professors never learn.
But then it's on to an even blacker black ... Vietnam. Combat scenes are rendered believable by effective visuals and terrific sound effects: pounding percussion, amplified sounds of equipment and footsteps across explosive debris, and an always present, ever-so-subtle ... echo. Potent and torturous, these scenes convey a Zen-like immediacy, an impending sense of doom. And then at film's end, those lyrics ...
Composed of two, barely overlapping, parts, the script's structure is a bit unorthodox. But the film works, owing to an intensity that never lets up. R. Lee Ermey is of course terrific as the harsh drillmaster. Casting of the young lions is okay, though a tad weak in one or two cases. Insertion of pop songs of the era works well, to amplify the cultural disconnect between a war-torn Vietnam and an indifferent America.
Like reading a history book, watching an occasional war movie is good for the soul. It puts one's problems in perspective. For that reason, this particular war movie is better than most. It's riveting, intense. And the sense of impending blackness hovers ever present over the story's heroic victims, like the sword of Damocles.
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