14 October 2012

Film Rewatch: Full Metal Jacket

Thoughts: I was torn between making this a full review, because it has been an awfully long time between my first viewing and now. But during the runtime I realized just how much of Full Metal Jacket I actually remembered, so I made it a Movie Rewatch. The movie still resonates, especially as a repetitive hammer of process and form. Right from the opening sequence of young, nameless recruits getting their heads unceremoniously shorn we are slapped in the face with the dehumanizing, innocence destroying art of modern warfare. Combine that with Kubrick's remarkable eye for detail, and you have a quality film split into two equally disturbing halves.

The majority of Full Metal Jacket revolves around recruit Private "Joker" Davis, who starts as a grunt and ends as a war correspondent. We watch as he completes basic training, and works his way through a tour of 1968 Vietnam. The film doesn't waste time on exposition, or character building; instead the film works like a series of vignettes across a timeline, with fully completed and fulfilled characters showing up and dropping out as the war sees fit. In my opinion, that's the best way to describe Full Metal Jacket.

All the actors are convincing in their roles, with Matthew Modine the perfect choice to relay the constant sarcasm that our man Joker is constantly purveying. His character is very reminiscent of Watchmen's The Comedian, in that all of what is going on is just one big joke humanity is playing on itself. Look at some of the fantastic lines and comments he gets to make:

Private Joker: "I wanted to see exotic Vietnam... the crown jewel of Southeast Asia. I wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture... and kill them. I wanted to be the first kid on my block to get a confirmed kill!"

Private Joker: "A day without blood is like a day without sunshine. "

All delivered with a great dose of blank obviousness. It's fucking brilliant.

The set design is one of a kind. Kubrick creates this canvas in the second half of the film, that seems to stretch off into eternity. All the shots seem to have so much happening in the fore and background: black smoke billowing into the sky from dessicated structures, armoured trucks shifting soldiers to and from the front, a bustling Vietnamese town centre. In a phrase, the entire thing is jaw dropping, and I'd love to know more of how it was all achieved.

The film is filled with iconic moments, so much so that even people who have never seen the film have probably quote lines or are aware of certain shots and moments without realizing it. I'd say that's the mark of a true mover and shaker, and frankly the film deserves the crown it wears. It's more an experience than a normal 3 act movie.



  1. What I love about it? You could take the film's script and transplant it into any war from the past 200 years, just change the names of places (replace Saigon with Baghdad for example) and the rest of the dialogue would fit in perfectly.

    1. Just have to change all the bits about TV and media. Vietnam was notorious for being the first war that was truly televised, and dictated by the media, especially in the West. Oh how fucked we all are, really.