Anthony "Swoff" Swofford, a Camus-reading kid from Sacramento, enlists in the Marines in the late 1980s. He malingers during boot camp, but makes it through as a sniper, paired with the usually-reliable Troy. The Gulf War breaks out, and his unit goes to Saudi Arabia for Desert Shield. After 175 days of boredom, adrenaline, heat, worry about his girlfriend finding someone else, losing it and nearly killing a mate, demotion, latrine cleaning, faulty gas masks, and desert football, Desert Storm begins. In less than five days, it's over, but not before Swoff sees burned bodies, flaming oil derricks, an oil-drenched horse, and maybe a chance at killing. Where does all the testosterone go? Written by
While Swoff is being punished for abandoning his watch for the party, the water bottle on the table shifts position between shots. See more »
Anthony 'Swoff' Swofford:
A story: A man fires a rifle for many years, and he goes to war. And afterward he turns the rifle in at the armory, and he believes he's finished with the rifle. But no matter what else he might do with his hands, love a woman, build a house, change his son's diaper; his hands remember the rifle.
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At the end of the credits, Sykes can be heard calling out the following military cadence, with his platoon responding: 'All my life it was my dream/ To be a bad motherfucking U.S. Marine.' See more »
"Every war is different," says Anthony Swofford as the movie "Jarhead" comes to a close. "Every war is the same." Looking back on his experience, he sees that the first Gulf War and the Marine Corps have become ineradicable parts of who he is: "Every jar-head is me." The screen shimmers and shifts into a scene of a desert patrol dwarfed by distance and hazed by heat waves. "We are still in the desert," he says. The screen darkens. The credits begin to roll.
A critic once observed that audiences emerge from a comedy talking animatedly with one another, but after a tragedy they come forth subdued and solitary, each absorbed by his or her own thoughts.
"Jarhead" is not a tragedy but a tragic coming-of-age story. As in "The Last Picture Show," a young man discovers what a cruel, destructive business life can be. Swofford emerges from a war that has consisted of a long, maddening wait followed by a hard march through the surreal aftermath of battles already won by jets dropping smart bombs, toward a horizon blackened by Saddam's burning oil wells. He returns home to find that his girlfriend has left him for another man. His best friend, who suffered with him through the combat that never came, dies as a civilian, possibly a suicide, as he was thrown out of the Corps with a dishonorable discharge.
Subdued and solitary, I waited outside the theater for my wife.
"So, what did you think?" I asked her when she came out. "Definitely not a John Wayne movie," she said. "No," I responded, reminded of Clint Eastwood sharing a victory cigar with a young Marine beneath an American flag raised atop a hill in Grenada in "Heartbreak Ridge."
"It wasn't as dark as the book," I said. "In the book," she replied, "you couldn't see Swofford's smile."
Jake Gyllenhaal does display an engaging, youthful grin in the early part of the movie. He plays the twenty-year-old Swoff very well. And Jamie Foxx does Sgt. Sykes brilliantly. Against the backdrop of a night made at once hellish and spectacular by blazing oil wells, the Sergeant tells Swoff that he (Sykes) could have joined his brother and had a nice safe job stateside, but with no chance to see such sights as this. "I love this job," he says. "I thank God for every day he gives me in the Corps. Oorah... You know what I mean, Swoff?" Foxx's delivery is flat, point blank, neither sarcastic nor enthusiastic. He is an exhausted soldier giving himself a pep talk he scarcely believes in any longer. Get out your Oscar Nomination forms.
At dinner we tried to recall what was book and what was movie. I did not remember the scene in which the soldiers are interviewed by a TV journalist from the book, but from Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket." From "Full Metal Jacket" also, I believe, came the bizarre business of a soldier's sardonically making a corpse his buddy. The war-is-surreal-hell moral of the movie reminded me of Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" - a film the young jar-heads watch with sexual intensity in Mendez's movie. But the scene in which the soldiers sit down to enjoy a home movie one Marine's wife has made - of herself being humped by their next door neighbor - that, we all agreed, was in the book.
I remember when "Battle Cry" came out in 1955. Unlike the Boy-Scout-clean soldiers of most WW II movies of that era, these Marines said Hell and Damn. And one of them actually shot the finger at some troops riding past - What a shocker!
A Jacksonville, NC Daily News reporter interviewed several Marines from the local base who saw the movie. Excerpt:
Their reviews seemed to be positive, especially concerning the portrayal of the relationship between Marines and how deployments and war are mostly about sitting around and waiting.
"I thought it was good," said Lance Cpl. Richard Usher, 19, from Tampa, Fla. "From what I know, it's accurate. They did say 'Oorah' way too much."
Lance Cpl. Josh Rader, 29, of Georgia, said he thought the movie was one of the more accurate portrayals of the Marine Corps, with the only more accurate movie being Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket."
"A lot of the training, they dramatize it more," Rader said. "I'd say it's probably more accurate."
Lance Cpl. Adam Blades, 20, with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, agreed, but took exception to the actors' ages.
"The actors were a little old," he said. "The majority of guys going over there are like 18 and 19. But it was pretty cool. As accurate as I've seen." +++
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