Saturday, January 14, 2006


Jarhead is the latest Sam Mendes offering based on the best selling book by former marine Anthony Swofford. The film charts his experiences in the Gulf War, ranging from the now familiar portrayal of boot camp to the reality of fighting in Kuwait.

The first section of the film introduces the central characters as they immerse themselves in the ‘Hoo-Rah’ culture and do numerous punishment press-ups in drenched muddy fields. These scenes are predictably reminiscent of the first half of Full Metal Jacket, minus the fantastic script and power house performance of R. Lee Ermey as the sadistic drill Sergeant. The bonding sessions, the sharing of pictures of sweethearts and the boozy nights that follow leaves you with the feeling that we’ve been here far too many times before. But the mood soon changes as the soldiers find themselves in Kuwait, not fulfilling their role as US-made killing machines, but carrying out the mundane task of guarding oil reserves. Over the next six months they train, get pissed. Train, play football. Train, get pissed some more. And this we find is the overall point of the film. Rather than dealing with the political background or the horrors of war, the film focuses on the psychological turmoil of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character as he copes with the isolation, loneliness and boredom of being stranded in the desert. And as the slow paced story drags itself to the finishing line the audience can easily empathise with Anthony’s feelings of boredom and dissatisfaction.

It isn’t long before Anthony starts to teeter on the edge of insanity as the frustration of not being able to kill someone builds to an explosive level. As to whether or nor he gets to fire off that load I will leave to those who may want to watch Jarhead at some point.

The film is marked by solid performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and the underrated Peter Sarsgaard. Overall Jarhead is watchable. However what we are left with is a war movie devoid of passion, politics and action. This is not the war movie I wanted to see, especially from the likes of Sam Mendes.

I give this film 2.5 sweaty marines out of 5.

[Review by LMcG - arch nemisis of PA with powers comparable to PA!]



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