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A realistic glimpse into our history....
splatzer6 November 2005
I was reluctant to see this movie. As a veteran of Desert Shield/Storm, I spent my first 90 days in-theater in the Weapons Co of A Swofford's Battalion. I later was moved to the 1st Bn of 7th Marines, but having been in the same unit for some of the same time I felt I could offer readers a unique perspective on the film's accuracy.

From a purely aesthetic perspective I thought the film was well done. The acting was very good, and the script was well written, witty, and accurate. The actors were well suited to their roles. My personal preference for a good plot would have been disappointed were it not for my personal interest in the film. In my opinion this film is an outstanding dramatic-documentary, so adjust your expectations accordingly. If you are expecting a driving plot line and all the accompanying dramatic tension, then I think you will be disappointed (as many whose comments I heard exiting the theater certainly were). But if you think of it as a chance to take a glimpse into a point in history, and see it as some of those who lived it did, then I think you will be impressed.

Many people may think that the obscenity of some of the interactions was overdone for effect. But whatever anyone's personal judgment of that behavior, that is the closest portrayal of Marines (or soldiers) being themselves I have yet seen on screen. Marines are vulgar. They do watch porn. They do fight among themselves. They do both hate, and love, the Marine Corps. There is an omni-present anti-war conspiracy theorist. The do say ridiculous things. There are some who are over the line. The reality of the Marine Infantry is that things happen there every day that are well beyond conventional sensibility, and which strain credibility to the average civilian. It's all true. I love the Marine Corps and I am still serving - I don't have an axe to grind. It just happens to be true.

Are there parts of the film that I find incredible? Yes. But they are not the essential things. There is a scene, it's even in the trailer, in which everyone is firing their weapon into the air. I wasn't there, but I can't fathom a breach of discipline on that scale. I can't say it's impossible, but I am doubtful. But whether it's true or not is not important. At its essence this is a film about Marines, how they adjusted to the Marine Corps, each other, and a war. If there are a few incredible details, then we can just be grateful that Hollywood didn't impose a car-chase on us.

This is a film about Marines. At that time, there were very few who turned down scholarships to Ivy League schools to come in. We were from strange backgrounds. We were obscene. We did want to get our kills. Many of us were frustrated that our war was only 100 hrs long. We knew we were filling the footsteps of giants - the Marines of Iwo, The Chosin, Belleau Wood - and I think we all wanted a chance to earn a place next to those men. In our wild, adrenalized youth, those aspirations just took the crude form of looking for a kill. Or at least that's how I've put it in perspective 15 years later.

If you go and see this film, try to recall yourself at 18 (as I was). Suspend your judgment of the obscenity and vulgarity until you're sure you would've done it differently. I can't speak for Swofford, but I am still incredibly proud of my service there. The insanity of this film reminds me why: because it is characteristic of the immense hardship that our youth bears on behalf of the rest. Do the characters look stressed? It's not hyperbole. We were 18 and we thought we were going to die over there. Still, at H-Hour, everyone marched North. In my opinion, you better fill some big shoes before you judge that.

So don't go into this film champing at the bit to pigeon-hole it as "Anti" or "Pro" war, with all the pre-fab rhetoric that comes with such a judgment. You have an opportunity here to look back into our little moment in history. Swofford has invited you into our memories. They are not Right, and they are not Left, they are just our story as Swofford lived it. If that kind of thing interests you, then go and see this movie.
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A true and realistic story
scottmey4 November 2005
As someone who is in the military, I thought this movie was perfect. If you are looking for a message about war or politics you won't find it here. This movie is strictly a story told by the main character about his time serving in the Marine Corps and his tour in the Gulf. It is true to life. From the language, situations, to the way the characters interact, the film is right on with accuracy.

The film is shot with striking cinematography. Scenes in the desert, especially with the oil fires, are breathtaking. The shots are done perfectly and originally throughout while the score and soundtrack takes it to a powerful emotional level.

The film will receive bad reviews from a political standpoint. I read a couple before I saw the movie that all stated they didn't like the movie 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 the current war in the East.

See this film if you want to see a humorous, sad, psychotic, intense, and most importantly REAL story.
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Pleasantly surprising
Juansmith24 October 2005
I saw a promotional screening of the film, sponsored by my university. Following the screening was an audience Q&A with the author (and main character), Tony Swofford.

And it was no surprise that the very first question from the audience was, quite ambiguously, "Do you support the military?" When Swofford dismissed the question as too broad and complex to be answered with a simple yes or no, the inquirer followed up with, "Well, do you support the war?" Swofford dismissed this even more readily.

To me, this was perfectly representative of how the film handled its potential political implications.

As Troy says early on in the film, "To hell with politics. We're here now." And that's essentially how the movie went.

It bypasses the soapbox and simply tells you how it was, from the perspective of a single soldier. And while the opening boot camp scenes may seem like Full Metal Jacket Lite, the rest of the film is truly unique.

Sam Mendes directs with his usual brilliance, showing once again his affinity for bright, vivid color, even in the largely monochromatic desert.

Jake Gyllenhaal gives an excellent performance as Anthony Swofford, complemented by the able talents of Jamie Foxx and Peter Sarsgaard.

The film's only real flaw is that, like the war on which it was based, it's pretty slow, and not a lot really happens.

In the strictest sense, I would have a hard time even classifying this as a war film, and it's certainly not a deliberately political film.

But in its own way, it tells an intense, personal story. Beyond that, you're simply left to make your own judgments.

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Here's a simple guide to Jarhead, without an agenda.
Cooldude310 November 2005
I am not a professional writer, I am not a director, I am not important. I just enjoy movies. I'm not writing this to convince you of my opinion. I'm not even here to give you a professional review of this movie, or sound educated and witty. I'm here to give a layman's take on the movie and not be concerned with politics or agendas.

1: Cinematography is downright beautiful in this movie. There are some unforgettable shots. Easily a contender for this year's cinematography award.

2: This is not an action war movie. If you want it to be, find another movie. Black Hawk Down might be closer to what you're looking for, although finding an action movie about Desert Storm is kind of hard.

3: This movie will invoke emotions. And just about any person can pick out a lot of evidence to support why they liked it and why they did not. A person can pick out a lot of evidence supporting the military, and at times make it look like a recruiting tool, or it can show anti war, anti-Bush, anti everything. It will make those that like to argue and takes sides, have a wonderful time with it.

4: The acting is good and realistic. It shows the happy carefree side of war, and also the darker undertones, and not-so-under-toned evils of war.

5: The military prepares people to become soldiers, just like a coach prepares people to become athletes. And once you are one, it is hard to switch it off once a person goes back to normal life. Even quote/ unquote "desk jockey's" and those that aren't in the actual combat but provide support roles, are still trained to fight.

6: Media and movies have not helped our perception of war and those involved. They've been putting a spin on things for a while now, and they like to beat a lot of dead horses.

7: This is based on a true story. No matter how "Hollywoodized" a movie can get, it's basic concepts and ideas are still generally intact. And Swoff was actually there. I was not.

8: To me, Jarhead felt like the Full Metal Jacket of this generation. With extreme's of both "anti's" and "pro's" you take it or leave it. Full Metal Jacket is a good movie for taking the approach that it did. Jarhead is no different.

9: Don't hate on anyone trying to do their job, if you see someone in uniform, don't think negatively or positively, unless you know the person. You don't know their story. If you want to find out, just listen. That's all, nothing more. Don't just wait for your next chance to speak.

10: Find a way to see Jarhead, reserve your judgments until afterward, and if you're a jerk, then give all the snotty, ignorant, or mean opinions you want. You won't change anyone's mind, just tick them off.

To finish up, this movie will make you feel something. Let it go. No wonder people's stress levels are high. If you offend easily, lighten up. If all you can do is go around in life and get offended, then I am truly sorry for you. Now, I'm going to grab a beer from the fridge, sit down and watch a movie, to have something to do. Nothing more.
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From a Marine from that era
bobhendry6 November 2005
At last - a movie that simply shows it like it is... No "Rambo" superhero-idiotic-nonsense; no overdone, melancholy, attempt at cinematic artistry at the cost of authenticity - such as is found in "Platoon", "FMJ", "Apocalipse Now" and "Deerhunter" - to name a few overrated war movies.

Finally a movie which captures the FEEL of being a Marine in the eighties... the sights, the sounds, the events - all brought back vivid memories. As the scenes unfolded, I found myself thinking "... I remember when that happened..." over and over, because my service somewhat paralleled Swofford's own, and I was aware of - if not a witness to - certain events that took place. A movie which portrays the Marine grunt for what he is... certainly no angel, but the absolute backbone of American military toughness. The barracks and field life portrayed in this movie is perhaps the most accurate portrait Hollywood has produced.

With only a few realtively minor technical inaccuracies, this is a movie whose full richness can probably only be experienced by those who were in the Corps at that time. And for that degree of accuracy, I am grateful to the author and those who produced the film. Too often producers and directors overlook the details that make a military film credible to veterans - such as the details of the uniform, the sounds and function of weapons, the behavior of the characters. Not so in "Jarhead". And the dialogue was right on.

Having read several of the other comments, it is clear to me that there are events depicted in the movie which may not be clearly understood or properly contextualized by someone who has not served in the Marine Corps infantry. Do not let that stop you from seeing the film - it is an excellent view into a world most people will never see. I left the theater feeling proud of my service, and although I miss the daily life of an active duty Marine, "Jarhead" left me feeling strangely happy to be able to look back on it - and to sleep in my own home, my own bed, tonight. Yet, for many Marine veterans, the hope remains in the back of our minds that the phone will ring tomorrow with an opportunity to go back and lead men once again - and yes, for those who might wonder, even in Iraq or anywhere else - as the line in the move so eloquently put it "Forget the politics. We're here now." Such is the fidelity of a rough-hewn few who are ready to fight when called upon. Grunts really don't expect most people to love us or understand us, but we hope there are some folks out there who might appreciate the fact that we are there. I think the movie captures that notion commendably.
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Bold and Brilliant Melancholy
Scott11208227 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
JARHEAD is the third in a string of successful films by Sam Mendes, first wowing audiences with American BEAUTY and then continuing our admiration with ROAD TO PERDITION. With JARHEAD, Mendes solidifies himself as one of the most extraordinary filmmakers working today.

The first thing that may surprise audiences is that this is not necessarily an anti-war piece. Mendes and screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. have been careful not to make this film narrow in view. Instead, by focusing on the psychological turmoil of one soldier, Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal), JARHEAD is able to speak specifically about this man's experience and how it relates to those around him.

Mendes drenches the screen with sights and sounds that literally envelope us in the horrors of warfare. These explosions of vision and noise are counterbalanced, however, with scenes of great sadness and warmth. One scene that comes quickly to mind is a boot camp drill where the young soldiers are crawling under barbed wire--the sound design is such that we hear every character screaming or grunting as the gunshots zoom overhead. But then, the scene changes. An event occurs that allows Mendes to silence all of the violence and machismo of war. Amongst the hysteria of the scene, one of the soldiers freaks out and a gunshot is discharged. Mendes lets the camera witness this as if it hadn't expected it to occur. The characters are in shock, and so is the audience. It's just one of many powerful moments where Mendes changes from loud, visceral warfare to quiet, poignant moments.

Not that there's much warfare here. In fact, the lack of warfare becomes a theme for this film. Peter Sarsgaard, in a great performance, reaches his breaking point during the final third of the film, and it's a riveting moment where the lack of warfare has finally made him explode. His performance is very strong throughout, but it is not until the second half of the film when he finally gets the chance to break loose. Don't mistake the first half of his performance as simply being on-screen... charisma that palpable doesn't happen by accident. It is because he uses his scenes and lines wisely in the first half that we end up so engrossed and fascinated by him in the second. A true supporting performance. Oscar nomination hopefully on the way.

Jamie Foxx surprised me here, and not because I didn't think he was a fine actor. Obviously, he is. But his character is so well-conceived, and works wonderfully as the counterpoint to the Gyllenhaal character. Foxx plays his scenes confidently, but also with touches of gravitas that, even in RAY, we haven't seen before. The scene that we get a glimpse of at the end of the trailer is wonderful in its fullness, and helps Mendes' film give us a well-rounded opinion of Swofford's opinions on the war. Foxx is by turns hilarious and profound.

And then there was Jake Gyllenhaal. Wow. This is an incredible performance. Watch for a dozen scenes where he literally explodes off the screen, but how he also juggles the quieter moments with great aplomb. What makes Swofford an intriguing character is that he doesn't always get our sympathy; or, for that matter, want our sympathy. He is scarred by war and his family and the life he left behind, and he is just looking for a way to get out of the sand and the sexual dysfunction of war and the lack of gunfire. Gyllenhaal captivates our attention from his very first glimpse, and his voice-over performance laces the film with irony and melancholy. He is a great physical presence in the film as well. I could cite more than a few dynamic scenes that he performs masterfully in, but I'll just mention one. Swofford points a rifle at a fellow soldier after a failed night watch, and then turns the rifle on himself, asking the fellow soldier to discard a round into his mouth. It's an indescribably painful scene to watch, but it's also an example of Gyllenhaal's brave and honest portrayal of this bruised man.

Some people have begun to write about this film as lacking structure or story, and in saying that I'm afraid they may have missed the point. This is a story about ambiguity of self, about dislocation, about ambivalence to war and love, about sexual frustration. In these terms, I think Mendes & Co. have found the perfect way to cinematically allow us to experience the same sort of blank complexity that Swofford must have felt. And that's why I find this a remarkable adaptation of a memoir that I admire deeply.

I could go on and list scene after scene that make this a memorable film, but I'll let you experience it yourself and decide for yourself. In summation, JARHEAD is a viscerally unforgiving, psychologically heartbreaking masterpiece.

I don't know that this is an "Academy" film, but it is certain to garner nominations. I would nominate it as: Picture, Director (Mendes), Adapted Screenplay (Broyles Jr.), Actor (Gyllenhaal), Supporting Actor (Foxx), Supporting Actor (Sarsgaard), Editing, Score, Cinematography, Sound.
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Every War Movie is Different. Every War Movie is the Same.
Quicksand2 November 2005
More than anyone, I would imagine that U.S. Soldiers would have a more specific opinion of this film than anyone else. They were there, they were in it, no one knows better than they.

And there are two kinds of soldiers: those who loved it, who took great pride and honor in serving their country... and those who saw it as just a job, got out, and got on with their lives. "Jarhead" is based on a book, written by a U.S. Marine, who falls squarely into the second category.

He does not judge, he does not come out as for or against the war. This is not a political movie, yet will still make some people uncomfortable, and it should. "Jarhead" lays out the experience of one particular Marine from boot camp, to (suddenly) Operation Desert Shield, to Operation Desert Storm. What happens here is not always pretty, but it is the truth, and the truth should be all we can ask for.

The screenplay was adapted by William Broyles Jr., who in addition to some TV work, adapted the recent "Planet of the Apes" remake, and "Cast Away." Personally, I didn't think either of these films were anything special, which is why "Jarhead" is such a surprise. Not a lot blows up, there's no huge siege like in your typical Vietnam movie... it's a surprisingly affecting study of this one man, the experiences he had, the people he knew. It's about the Corps, and it's about brotherhood. Our main character, Swof, never judges, never mentions politics, is only the best Marine that he knows how to be.

As Swof's friend Troy says at one point, "F*** politics. We're here. All the rest is bull****." Which is all the movie is about, really. This is what happened. Take it or leave it.
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Full Metal Witch Project
twim2327 October 2005
Just saw an advanced screening of this tonight. While it isn't the film that has been so brilliantly advertised, it's a very solid film. It feels a lot like "Full Metal Jacket" early on, but with more humor. Then, it becomes an entirely new animal. More of a psychological study. I would actually call this the "Blair Witch Project" of war films in that you (and the characters) know the Boogeyman's "out there," you're just waiting for him to strike. And the longer you wait, the more stir-crazy you become within your own mind.

The acting is superb and the cinematography is stellar. It's an anti-war film without being distinctly liberal about it. It's a true story, and for the most part, Mendes tells it like it is. So, you can make your own judgment about it. But based off what you see, and all that happens, you have no choice but see the absurdity, not only in war, but perhaps in some of the USMC's tactics as well. It's heartbreaking to see what an experience like this can do to young men.

If you're looking for action, this is not the film you're looking for. No heroism, judgments, insight, or hope. Just the documentation and reflection of build up, the destruction of lives, psychological torment, boredom, camaraderie, and...waiting.
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The Vietnam Vet On The bus
azpaul5019 January 2010
I don't think many people caught the meaning of the Vietnam Vet in the biker vest who asked to sit for a moment on the bus. For returning Vietnam Vets there wasn't much celebration but rather an isolated trip back into anonymity. For that brief moment, the Vietnam Vet saw and felt what he should have years earlier... affirmation and recognition. I am sure it was an intended (and embedded) allusion to that injustice. For me, it hit a chord of sadness I didn't know I had. For that moment in the movie I was riding that same bus... along with thousands of other veterans. I say thank you and well done in the making of this movie.
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Not a John Wayne Movie
trcbmc10 November 2005
"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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You would like this film and be scared of it
tyreeseconroy3 November 2019
T the same time if you served in the marine Corps like me.

The actors do a good job of portraying the situation and the locals give it a realistic feeling.
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Extremely powerful and moving War pic. A 'Platoon' for Gen X.
oypoodles27 October 2005
I saw this movie at a screening at UC Berkeley. Afterward the author of the novel it is based on held a Q&A.

This movie is a bit long, but so are most War films. It does, however, keep your attention the entire times.

This film is not just a War film, it is able to seamlessly mix comedy and drama, with such issues as Mental health and even a bit of ennui.

The characters are fully developed, each and everyone has an interesting story that is covered, briefly but perfectly. You get a broad spectrum of the kinds of men that go to war, what they left behind, and how it effects them when they return.

The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and Sam Mendes' direction is pitch perfect.

Jakc Gyllenhaal gives an astounding performance, as does Jamie Foxx, but it is Peter Sarsgaard that steals the show, with a heartbreakingly subtle ghost of a performance.

This is definitely a must-see.
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a worthy effort but seems to be lacking
Special-K8819 December 2005
Gritty story based on the true life experiences of Marine recruit Anthony Swofford, a naïve teenager who gets more than he bargained for beginning in basic training, then a long and hellish nightmare of combat after he's shipped off to Kuwait during Operation Desert Shield. Well-crafted, strongly acted, and extremely political the film certainly holds your interest, but the script is unfocused, the subject matter never truly compelling, and the momentum slows more and more as it goes along. Gyllenhaal is respectable as the reluctant Marine who finds himself in over his head, while Foxx is a powerhouse as his gung-ho sergeant. Starts off strongly, but gradually becomes conventional and loses its way. **½
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Somewhat generic but has its moments
Floated24 September 2018
Jarhead (2005) the war drama film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jamie Foxx, sees a group of marines and their quest search in battle. The film at the time seemed to have been praised widely but as time has passed and now over a decade since it's release, this film doesn't seem as great as it was when it came out. Reason being, there have been many more quality and better war/marines/solider films such as Jarhead.

Though this film is not bad, it somewhat feels generic and lacking of complete emotional balance. The performances are their but the general tone of the film seems to resemble and MTV based film rather than a serious awards type film (such as the Hurt Locker or Hacksaw Ridge). Also mentioned that this film is not just a War film, it is able to mix some comedy and drama, with such issues as Mental health. The cinematography is great and Sam Mendes' direction is holds up but in general, something about the film feels lacking.
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Distortion and Disappointment
NewMillenniumllc8 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Having served three years in the Marine Corps as an enlisted man, two in Vietnam with an infantry company in combat, I found the film to be a major distortion of the Corps. The film generally sets out the Corps as a unit that has no direction and their officers and staff NCO's are idiots (i.e the Bn Commander acting like a rock star during his speech to the troops in the tent). I assure you this simply not the case. I spent 27 months in Vietnam and never saw anyone in that type of setting that conducted themselves anything other than serious and professional. As aside, during my time in Nam I had six Bn commanders, so I know from experience these facts.

In addition, the film suggests that the Corps operates with poor equipment, and again I assure the reader the equipment may not be the latest (such as the Army enjoys), but it always operational, notwithstanding normal wear and tear issues. A great example is the battery problem shown in the film. Being a 2531 field radio operator, I take exception to that scene in the film. No properly trained radio operator ever goes into the field without two batteries, both of which are checked for charging prior to leaving a rear area. This is only one of numerous such operational distortions in this movie, which leaves the viewer wondering about the professionalism of the Corps.

Being somewhat of a film buff I found the entire film to be fragmented (poorly edited, poorly filmed - almost surreal), and without any direction to guide the viewer. Finally, the acting was shallow at best, including I am sadden to say, Mr. Fox's performance. Comparing this film to "Full Metal Jacket," which I found to be factual and well executed, is like comparing a college freshman film director's work to one of the greats like Houston.

This film served no one, not the viewing public, not the actors and other technicans who worked on the film, and most certainly not the Marine Corps. Honest critical thinking about war and the military presented in a film is always welcomed by an informed society, but historical distortion pretending to be art is simply that, a pretender.
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Somewhat Flawed
Uriah434 February 2013
This film has some excellent parts to it but at the same time it comes from a perspective that is somewhat flawed. I say this because the author, LCpl Anthony Swafford, was very immature and his resulting lack of discipline caused him to leave the Marine Corps with a disgruntled mentality. The book this movie is based on reflects that skewed outlook. Add to that the fact that there are always inevitable additions Hollywood inserts to make a film even more sensational (than the book itself) and one should be able to understand that everything is not necessarily as it seems. For example, there is one scenario where the marines are told to don their protective gear and play football in 112 degree heat. Well, since military training is supposed to be as realistic as possible I suppose this could happen-but only for a very short duration and certainly not at the pace depicted. Later on, when they are then told to drink out of their canteens (while their protective masks are still on) we find that some members have busted canteen tops or have been missing their drinking tubes for some time. And I doubt this very seriously. First of all, these marines were deployed to a combat area where the use of chemical or biological agents against them was considered very likely. That being the case, their gear would have been checked and inspected repeatedly and on a regular basis. Further, any defects would have been corrected almost immediately. After all, this was a front-line military unit and not a group of reservists put together at the last minute. Now, for some people this might seem to be a minor issue, but this is just one item (out of many) that gives the appearance that these marines were sent into a combat area for a lengthy time and then totally forgotten about. So, while this might have been the message the author was trying to convey, the fact is that it may have been more his perception than actual reality. And again, his perception was probably clouded by his attitude more than anything else. That said, this film essentially revolves around a very narrow (and possibly imagined) point-of-view. To be sure, our soldiers and marines had to endure a very long and trying stint in the desert. It was lonely and they felt anguish for their loved ones back home. To that end, this film does a very good job of capturing the monotony and sense of isolation. But the "hurry up and wait" scenario is hardly a novel concept in this day and age any more than it has been with many armies for thousands of years. For example, siege warfare often lasted months upon end without the conveniences these marines had. Same thing with the Japanese soldiers on isolated island atolls during World War II. Not to mention the marine's Iraqi counterparts on the other side of the border who had to endure B-52 strikes with only their cardboard bunkers to protect them. Now, I don't say this to belittle the experiences our soldiers and marines had to endure, day in and day out, for over 6 months in such an arid and hostile environment. Again, it was a definite accomplishment and I think this movie does as much as any film can to capture that ordeal. But there were times when it seemed LCpl Swafford did more than his share of whining about his circumstances. Once again, it goes back to the source. Likewise, I thought there were some scenes which didn't need to be included and only served to make the Marine Corps look bad. That is not to say that the foul language wasn't unusual or that sex wasn't on the minds of these young marines. But was it really necessary to show them in such a crude fashion? Well, I suppose it might be if one had a negative attitude about what it means to be a marine. And again it all goes back to the author and possibly to those in Hollywood who have never served in the military. In short, this movie had some good points and it had some bad points. The depiction of the "highway of death" and the oil fields burning were definite highlights. But the negativity and crudeness brought on by the recollections of someone who was clearly bitter about his experience seemed to distort reality and diminish the overall effect.
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"We are still in the Desert..."
WriterDave8 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It's that haunting final line of "Jarhead" that pierces the viewer most. Sam Mendes' superb adaptation of Anthony Swofford's novel is the best and most artistically astute "grunts-eye-view" of modern warfare since Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket." Mendes successfully does for Desert Storm what Kubrick did for Vietnam.

We are provided here with a full array of the varied types of men (the bored, those looking for a way out, the slightly crazy thrilled at the chance to blow things up and kill people, those with some vague sense of the honor serving one's country has brought to generations past) who go to war, and how in the end "All wars are different, but all wars are the same." Expertly displayed here is the utter futility of our modern wars in the Middle East. Most of the film's runtime is dedicated to the boredom the Marines experience as they train endlessly in the desert to fight some distant enemy that never really shows his face. The war is quick and the men are sent home without ever firing a shot at the enemy, yet, as it is so beautifully noted, "We are still in the desert" and men and women are still being sent to fight a war for what....oil? Oh, and the oil is beautifully on display here, lit up at night across the desert sands and raining down on soldiers and corpses alike with wanton abandon. Cinematographer Roger Deakins takes over nicely for the late Conrad Hall as Sam Mendes cohort in capturing jaw-droppingly beautiful cinematic compositions and painting them on the big screen.

Some have complained that "Jarhead" lacks an emotional core, but I dare you to find more emotional scenes than Jake Gyllenhaal coughing up a mountain of sand in a frenzied nightmare, Peter Sarsgaard cowering in the tower in the midst of a psychological breakdown after not being allowed to take the sniper shot he has been training endlessly to take, or one of the final scenes where a nameless Vietnam vet hops aboard the bus as the Marines come home to cheers and a parade in a sad and haunted attempt to experience the hero's welcome he never received for his war.

All war movies are not the same, and this one is a bitter cut above the rest.
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con_lund20 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This is not your typical war movie. For others that may be okay but going into this I was expecting it to be somewhat similar to FMJ or Platoon. This movie revolves around the boredom and lives of the soldiers. There is not an ounce of action except for a man getting shot in the head in basic training. It was highly disappointing, all the buildup and hell of training and they do not get to use their skills. There are also random scenes throughout such as a horse covered in oil, and I was very annoyed when Gylenhall and Saarsgard are told not to take the shot and an air strike is called instead. Praise for Jamie Foxx's performance though and the bit of humor throughout.
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tomcargillkaleb9 October 2020
Show me a more illogical film than this and I will show you nutrition and good taste at Burger King.

Honestly, the world is in danger and they launch groups of three or four with light arms!

It is beyond stupid.
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'Jarhead'—The real 'suck'
nprovenzo13 November 2005
In 1987, Time magazine ran an infamous cover that consisted of a marine in his dress blue uniform—with a blackened eye upon his face. The cover was intended to depict the shame befallen the marines after the Clayton Lonetree spy scandal and it was met with outrage—how dare Time sucker-punch the entire Marine Corps because of the crimes of just one of its members? Yet after seeing the movie "Jarhead," Anthony Swofford's autobiographical account of the marines during the first Gulf War, a black eye is the least of the marines' problems.

The fundamental theme of Jarhead's portrayal of marine life is that heroes do not exist. One cannot depict the Marine Corps accurately without noting that at least some of its members perform feats of strength, endurance and bravery, and that to build an entire institution of such men, certain virtues are required. Yet like Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, a movie acclaimed for its supposed depiction of Viet Nam-era marines, none of these men and certainly none of these virtues are to be found.

Instead, what one finds in Jarhead are empty men who drift though life, denied of what they truly want, and who choose to make up for it in emotional outbursts and sadistic and debased pleasures. Again and again, this is what Hollywood sees when it looks at the marines.

Yet as far as I can tell, there's no massive backlash by marines against this movie—in fact, I'm amazed at the positive reaction many marines have had. Are these marines so starved for heroes—so hungered for a portrait of their lives in uniform that they will find merit with those who portray the character of their commitment as utterly bereft of meaning or purpose, simply because the actors put on a marine blouse or use a jargon that rings familiar?

I served five years in the Marine Corps during the time Jarhead was set and I can certainly recount stories, both humorous and horrific. But overall, if I had to characterize my and my fellow marines' service, it would be the honorable commitment to the betterment of one's self and the defense of the American nation. The men I worked with might not have talked about it everyday. There might have been the occasional breach of conduct or character, and some may have even failed miserably in achieving the standard of excellence that is the hallmark of the corps.

Yet overall,(and in the metaphysically significant sense—the only sense that matters in art) almost every marine I knew was in the corps for a purpose and that purpose was good, noble, and just.

That's why I, for one, was proud to wear the marine uniform, and that's what no Hollywood movie that I know of has ever been able to accurately capture in a film about the marines. Given the freedoms the marines have fought so valiantly over their history to preserve, it's a tragedy they haven't received better from Hollywood in return.
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Jarhead is strictly Hollywood
gdfamily30 November 2005
Jarhead is strictly Hollywood - a movie of "sound and fury, signifying nothing." On a recent radio talk show, I heard a friend of one of the Marines portrayed in the movie say that the guys hated the movie, that it was not an actual depiction. The movie depends on the F-- word (among others), nudity, alpha-macho-male conduct (preying upon one another in the barracks), and obscene cavorting in order to "entertain" the audience. I'd hate to think that all Marines serving in the Middle East are immature, crude and immoral individuals. The entire movie is designed to "set up" today's military as a cadre of idiots. Not a single admirable character in the bunch. Come on now! Is that reality? The only memorable scene for me was the burning oil wells, but that didn't make up for the disgust I felt for the waste of time and money.
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Awful movie, bad acting, bad jokes, unreal atmosphere
dewit_jacco10 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
What an awful movie. I was so surprised to see IMDb-visitors rated it 7.3 average! Yeah, yeah, I know, I am not ye' movie critic, but I do believe I have somewhat of an opinion, when it comes to movies. In fact, I consult IMDb rather often, before renting or buying a new DVD and I must say that (with very few exceptions) I always agree with the IMDb-rating of a movie (of whatever kind, by the way). Having heard a lot about Jarhead and IMDb's rating (from 6 and up, the movies are mostly good - real good), I saw Jarhead yesterday and I was very disappointed. Sam Mendes is a good director and I was left in awe. SO bad! The acting was far below anything I have ever seen. There's a bunch of B-movies with better acting. Jokes were not at all funny, drama was pathetic, tension, what tension? Realistic? All a bunch of crap. The storyline wasn't that bad, but it died in bad acting, useless scenes (what was that about his horse? - covered in oil, ah, how sad ... and then?). The burnt bodies lying around, the dead of Troy (was that Troy, by the way? - who cares?), his girlfriend who left him, the idiotic so-called climax when they bomb that base on the end. I am sorry, but I have no idea why you dudes and dudettes rated this movie so highly. Maybe I didn't understand? Was it all a satire on some movie I haven't seen? Was it supposed to be sad, shocking, cult? There was absolutely nothing in this film that caught my attention (except for the fact that I was bored throughout the whole thing). Could someone please explain me why he/she thinks this movie deserves a 7.3 avg? Not for a moment Jarhead was interesting (no, please, don't give me the: that's-exactly-what-it-was-about-crap - to film boredom, one must not bore the viewer with bad acting, bad jokes and emphasizing so much on (the lack of) sexual relationships. Das Boot didn't need all that. And THAT'S a movie, worth 9 outta 10! Anyway, sorry I saw it. But even more sorry for the fact that 'the people who are supposed to know' rated it that high. Guess I'll take IMDb's ratings not so close to heart anymore.
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Missing some elements to really hit its target
Jay_Exiomo18 January 2006
Sam Mendes, director of "American Beauty," the critically acclaimed film that brought him an Academy Award for Best Director, brings to the big screen "Jarhead," a movie based on Andy "Swoff" Swofford's war memoir, which is more or less the same kind of war film we've all seen before. In it, Swoff is played by "Brokeback Mountain" co-star Jake Gyllenhaal and the film shows in its gritty language and sardonic humor the former sniper's recounts of how they live each day fighting boredom until they go to war.

Upon his arrival at the Marine base, Swoff is assigned to C Company. There he meets his friend Troy (Peter Sarsgaard), a member of the elite Marine unit, and Staff Sergeant Sykes (Jamie Foxx), who picks him and Troy for sniper duty. Then commences Operation Desert Shield and over they fly to Saudi Arabia. Itching for some action and increasingly becoming bored creatures in the desert, Swoff narrates their long wait while suggesting some techniques "for the marine to use in the avoidance of boredom and loneliness."

Basically the film's first part tackles the hell of a boot camp new recruits have to undergo. "Swoff" recounts how he was conceived, how screwed-up his life is, and how he got in the military. In many ways it feels rushed that sometimes you would like it to maybe linger in some scenes and hear more from him and the others. Some parts of the script also don't hold up well and may seem tedious to more cynical members of the audience.

The second part of the film is set in the desert. The problem here is the absence of genuine tension as the film avoids much of the battle and gore in lieu of a bunch of men finding whoever they are out in the scorching desert. But there's not enough depth, and the somewhat uneven pacing of Mendes in the movie's first part tantalizes the audience with only a bit of character background. There's little emotional connection, and there is virtually nothing for the audience to root for.

"Jarhead" treads very much the same area its predecessors had and without a clear stand on the theme it tackles, it appears relatively banal. That's not to say it's a bad film per se. It is a middling film with good acting and good cinematography. But coming from a director with a pretty impressive resume, somehow one can't help but ask for more.
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Disappointed is an understatement
betit19847 November 2005
I didn't actually think I could see a movie that equals the sadness of what i call the worst movie possibly ever >(open water)< But watching this horrible drawn out no action movie.... just made me flash back to the awful boredom I dealt with watching open water movie. There was more action at the concession stand. Please save your money donate it to your favorite charity or something . I wouldn't even watch it on on DVD it is Really That Bad. I wanted my money back! I felt like i had been ripped off & the only other time I can think OF that Equaled that disappointed was when i slept through Open Water. Sad Very Very SaD. If you like to watch a bunch of silly kiddish marines that very occasionally have a serious moment then this is a movie for you.

For the authors that gave this movie 8 - 10 stars all i can say is you must work for the film maker or somebody that is trying to make money from it. You got to be kidding me. Brilliant is ridiculious! It is a disgrace to our fighting men & women.
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A solid, but slightly derivative war song.
Degree715 May 2013
2005 was a very revelatory year for the actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Not only was he cast in a daring role as a gay cowboy in the Academy Award nominated 'Brokeback Mountain', but he also pulled off a very convincing portrayal of a hormonal, combat fueled jarhead that is swept up into the desert boredom of the early '90s Gulf War and Operation Desert Shield.

There is a lot to admire in this adaptation of former marine Anthony Swofford's reselling of his Desert Storm experience. Sam Mendes once again proves his visual acuteness that he demonstrated in American Beauty and Road to Perdition. He once again takes advantage of hand-held camcorders in key documentary scenes, although by now it starts a little bit to feel like he's retreading old ground. But the grain-filled picture and oil stricken, bombed out, barren landscape gives the desert a hypnotic and gritty beauty that adds a visual splendor to the affair.

More important is the casting, particularly Gyllenhaal in the main role. His frustration and existential angst as he battles insanity in the desert heat provides insight into the psyche of the marine corps, and what a defeating engine it is that swallows up these young men's lives. From what is portrayed here, fairly realistically I might add, it shows how their station in Kuwait and the Saudi oil fields is 99% boredom and 1% sheer terror, as the anticipation of the looming war advances. And when that war never materializes, the results are quietly devastating. These are people conditioned to kill and explicitly follow orders, and when their aggression goes un satisfied, they direct it at any other outlet they can as the pressure mounts. They truly do end up salivating like Pavlov Dogs.

While parts of the film feel derivative of previous war flicks, with the training ensemble and devastation of the country's infrastructure resembling 'Full Metal Jacket', and the voice over narration recounted by Swofford on marine life similar to 'Platoon', Jarhead is still a solid and engrossing psychological drama that shows a heartbreaking truth in how these men never really escaped the desert heat.
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