EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|FULL METAL JACKET (director/writer: Stanley Kubrick; screenwriters: from the novel ''The Short Timers'' by Gustav Hasford/Gustav Hasford/Michael Herr; cinematographer: Douglas Milsome; editor: Martin Hunter; music: Abigail Mead; cast: Matthew Modine (Pvt. Joker), Adam Baldwin (Animal Mother), Vincent D'Onofrio (Leonard Lawrence, Pvt. Gomer Pyle), R. Lee Ermey (Gunnery Sgt. Hartman), Dorian Harewood (Eightball), Arliss Howard (Pvt. Cowboy), Peter Edmund (Pvt. Snowball), John Terry (Lt. Lockhart), Kevyn Major Howard (Rafterman); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Stanley Kubrick; Warner; 1987-UK/USA)|
about the Vietnam War than about how the Marine Corps turns its
recruits into killers."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Stanley Kubrick ("A Clockwork Orange"/"Paths of
Glory"/"Eyes Wide Shut"), after a
seven year pause since filming The Shining, returns to film-making with
this superbly well-crafted, profane, dark humored and bleak antiwar
Vietnam War film. Though it makes for a fascinating watch, it's
steely-eye cold and less about the Vietnam War than about how the
Marine Corps turns its recruits into killers. It's based on the novel ''The
Timers'' by Gustav
Hasford, and is written by Kubrick, Hasford and Michael Herr. The film
is divided into two parts. The first part covers a company of Marines
undergoing a harrowing basic training in Parris Island, South Carolina;
while part two covers the battle scene in Vietnam.
In part one, the gung-ho
voluntary recruits are called maggots by their sadistic very vocal
drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey, former real-life Marine DI), who prepares them to be killers, have no fear and
to give their all to the corps. In his opening monologue to the
recruits the DI says: "I DO NOT look down on niggers, wops,
kikes, and greasers. You are all equally worthless." The DI then looks over his recruits and renames a
black soldier Pvt. Snowball (Peter
Edmund), a Texas recruit is renamed Pvt. Cowboy (Arliss Howard) after being told only steers and queers come from
his state, a smart-ass who does a John Wayne impression gets punched in
the guts and is renamed Pvt Joker (Matthew
Modine), and the grinning stupid company misfit who makes
the DI insanely angry is renamed Pvt. Gomer Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio). The DI intimidates Gomer Pyle throughout training
for being inept, slow-witted and obese, and gets the other members in
the company to also hate him by punishing them when Pyle screws up.
Under so much bullying and humiliation Pyle finally cracks, and the
consequences are numbing.
In part two, Joker, the film's nominal hero and
narrator and the star recruit of basic training, is in Vietnam as a reporter for Stars and Stripes and after confronting his slick CO with
sarcastic remarks about the war's progress is shipped out to the combat
zone at the height of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Joker, the gutsy
humorous humanist, wears a
peace symbol on his battle fatigues and, on his helmet,
the slogan ''Born to Kill.'' But in the end, the soldier with confusing
dual purposes lives up to his Marine indoctrination to kill for the
corps, as the combat mission
ends in the
film in the ruins of the city of Hue (a Kubrick symbol for the useless
destructive nature of war, that brings everyone down).
Nobody's a John Wayne-like
hero, as Kubrick's aim is to show the violence in training soldiers,
the madness of any war and how militarism begets the systematic
dehumanization needed to turn men into
killing machines, are all related to the warlike American culture and
how there can be no winners following such a limited creed.
The virtually all-male cast
(aside from a few Vietnamese hookers) get into their roles and give
outstanding performances. The military speak is loaded with vulgarity,
which gives the film a raw power separating it from most others. It was
filmed in England, where Kubrick used a military barracks outside
London to substitute for Parris Island and used a
gasworks in London's East End, a plant area that had been bombed-out
during WWII, to great effect as the Hue combat area.
REVIEWED ON 6/22/2010 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ