Full Metal Jacket

Posted: March 16, 2018 in Movies


When I saw Full Metal Jacket for the first time I was too young. I didn’t understand it (beyond it being a war movie) nor could I graps the big themes and political climate about that time in history. Recently I saw the film again. In a way for the first time because now I am older and have a better understanding of the Vietnam war and the various points of view about it. I am not an expert on it. I won’t be looking at Full Metal Jacket as if I am.

The Vietnam war was a horrible war for both sides. Whatever your opinion on the conflict there is no denying that the consequences of the war and the massive loss of life on both sides were horrific. Director Stanley Kubrick directs a contained war movie, different from Oliver Stones Platoon and Apocalypse Now, that focuses on a small group of soldiers. The plot follows them fthrough training and into the conflict itself.

The film boasts a solid cast that includes a terrifying, tragic and unforgettable performence from Vincent D’Onofrio (Jurassic World, Adventures in Babysitting) and a early role for Firefly star Adam Baldwin. The lead of the film is played by Matthew Modine. He plays Pvt.Joker who is a army approved reporter. I don’t know if this was deliberate or not but I did not like the character. I found the supporting cast and characters more compelling. R. Lee Ermey as the troops drill instructor Gny. Sgt. Hartman is what I imagine the army to be at it’s worse. A bully, who may mean well, yet his actions and ‘motivation’ has deadly consequences for his platoon before they even reach the battlefield.

Full Metal Jacket tackles several themes beyond institutional bullying. I guess the most obvious and important is the way some of troops on the ground are being mentally effected by the war. Is it a fair portrayl of American troops during Vietnam? I can’t say. Sadly I’m sure many troops did sadly loose their minds during the conflict and carried out unspeakable acts but surely there must have been those whose intentions were good and did the right thing. If the later is the case, as it must have been, this film doesn’t really focus on that as much. This is a dark look at a dark time in history. There’s a sense of tragedy and loss both of life and of minds on both sides.

Stanley Kubrick directs like one of a kind. The detail on display in the frame leaves you feeling like you’re not watching a movie from 1987 but a live report on TV. Not because the film is presented in a documentary style but because of the care and attention that went into recreating the war torn conflicts throughout Vietnam. A lot of war films don’t shy away from hardcore violence. Given the subject matter this one isn’t as graphic as Hacksaw Ridge or Saving Private Ryan. If that sort of violence is too heavy for you I don’t believe this movie would prove a hard watch in that respect, although it does clearly contain burts of violence and some upsetting scenes that stay with you beyond the film.

I feel woefully underqualifed to take a look at a film such as this but I know its reputation as a vital film in how it looked back on the Vietnam war and I wanted to see it. I appreciate the effort that went into the making of Full Metal Jacket and I’m glad that I went back to it. It’s a hard watch at times but these films need to be because Hollywood and co. owe it to history to not shy away from the harsh reality of the past.


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