Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Kevyn Major Howard
Running time: 116 minutes
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Full Metal Jacket is based on Gustav Hasford’s 1979 novel The Short-Timers. The story follows a platoon of U.S. Marines through their training and the experiences of two of the platoon’s Marines in the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. The film’s title refers to the full metal jacket bullet used by infantry riflemen.
Yes – it’s me! I’m finally doing my own IMDB Top 250 review since asking guest reviewers to help me out with the movies I’d already seen. Thanks again for all your contributions – it’s been far too easy for me to be lazy and just post your reviews but I realized that I’m now way behind on my goal of watching the rest of the 250 as this is only the second movie I’ve watched for this so far this year (the last being City Of God in January, which I reviewed for Cara over at Silver Screen Serenade HERE).
So… Here I am having watched another damn war movie for this project. All along I’ve said that what I’m looking forward to the least is watching all the war movies & Westerns in the Top 250. So I decided to get a bunch of them out of the way and, I’ll be damned – they’ve all been pretty freaking fantastic! Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid was fun, Once Upon A Time In The West was beautiful & had a kick ass score, The Great Escape was OH MY GOD SO GOOD, and The Bridge On The River Kwai was the best of all & ended up being one of my absolute favorite films I watched in 2013. I like a lot of Kubrick films (The Shining being a personal favorite) so I decided it was about time I see if Full Metal Jacket was as good as the other war movies & Westerns I’d been dreading watching. Well… No, unfortunately. I don’t think it quite lives up to the rest (although I did enjoy it more than the Westerns I’ve watched so far).
First of all, I did enjoy the first part of this film where they’re in training before they go to Vietnam. R Lee Ermey was brilliant as the Sergeant shouting the absolute best insults at everyone. Man I wish I could go around insulting people like that! Especially in the workplace – how cool would it be to talk to your co-workers like that?? “Five-foot-nine, I didn’t know they stacked shit that high!” (And that’s by far the least offensive quote of his that I can safely put in this review). Vincent D’Onofrio was good in this, although it was very obvious where that storyline was headed. I really only knew him from Men In Black & as “Thor” before watching this so it was interesting seeing him here (yes – Thor. If anyone gets what I’m on about, you’re my new best friend). I’ve actually not seen Matthew Modine in that much & I really liked his “Private Joker” character in this. He gives a solid performance, as does everyone, but I wouldn’t say any of the acting really stood out in this movie in the way we got some brilliant performances in other war movies such as The Deer Hunter, The Bridge On The River Kwai, and Platoon. I suppose a lot of that was due to the directing & the way Kubrick approached the topic of war, which I’ll try to go into now.
War movies (the ones I’ve seen, anyway) always try to show you the horrors of war & how terrifying and harrowing it is. Full Metal Jacket does a slightly better job of this in the beginning before they even head off to war but, overall, it takes a much “colder” approach to it all. This is very much Kubrick’s style, though, and I do think it’s a good film & another worthy classic from him (you can see the list I did of My Top Stanley Kubrick Movies HERE – I’d probably add Full Metal Jacket in at five but it’s close with number four). But it meant I felt very detached from these characters so it didn’t feel like it was as effective as a “war movie” as those I mentioned above. I guess it depends on what you want out of a movie – I know this is widely loved but I’d take The Deer Hunter over this, a movie in which you felt for the characters and how they were so obviously deeply affected by their war experiences.
Full Metal Jacket is very much like A Clockwork Orange – humans are what they are and no excuses are made for those who engage in violent activity, some of whom thoroughly enjoy it and feel no remorse for their actions. At least with Full Metal Jacket we get to see a little bit of a differing opinion from the likes of Modine’s Private Joker, who wears a peace symbol (whether this is truly a belief of his or if it’s just another way for him to live up to his nickname). We never REALLY know for sure and, by the end of the film, you’re kind of just left with a “Yeah, war sucks and some people are animals. So what?” kind of feeling. This movie is a little too “cool” in that you have things like the “Me so horny” hooker bit and all the Sergeant’s thoroughly inappropriate insults, making this a movie I often heard quoted by the teenage boys I went to high school with. It’s not like I ever heard them quote anything from The Deer Hunter. I’m not saying that Full Metal Jacket exactly glorifies war. It’s just that, in typical Kubrick style, it doesn’t necessarily say it’s a bad thing either. It just is what it is.
Full Metal Jacket is a definite Kubrick Classic but the cold approach to the topic meant I didn’t warm to any of the characters and the movie therefore didn’t pack the same emotional punch that you get from other war classics in the IMDB Top 250. The pre-Vietnam scenes are the strongest with very good but ultimately somewhat forgettable performances from Matthew Modine & Vincent D’Onofrio. It’s a very quotable film with some iconic scenes – I did like it but it’s perhaps a little too much “fun” at times, much like a Tarantino film or something like Scarface. It doesn’t exactly discourage violence but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it glorifies war (it’s not as borderline “irresponsible” as you could argue A Clockwork Orange is). This was definitely worth the watch but, if you want a more serious take on the horrors of war, I’d probably recommend a different war movie.
My Rating: 8/10