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Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

June. 26,1987
| Drama War

A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.


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Stanley Kubrick was already a legend when he made Full Metal Jacket- a war movie. The film is divided into two parts. The first focuses on a bunch of new recruits in boot camp and the other takes place smack in the middle of a warzone. Full of images that stick in mind and some great use of music Full Metal Jacket is Kubrick through and through. From the long takes to the nihilistic overtones there is a stamp of authority of the master filmmaker. The acting, as is the case with every Kubrick film is sublime especially Mathew Modine and Vincent D' Onofrio. If you want to see an auteur at work Full Metal Jacket is a film you should check out.


In USN bootcamp only rifles we had in our barracks were unloaded drill rifles with firing pins removed. They were strictly for carrying when marching and for doing manual of arms. I'm unfamiliar with USMC bootcamp policy but it seemed odd to me that Private Pyle had access to live ammunition in the barracks and had that loaded rifle that he shot his drill sgt. and himself with. Would someone familiar with USMC basic training rules explain whether this is true in real life?


I suppose your assessment of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket depends largely on how you see the relationship between its two halves: the first set in a South Carolina training camp where a group of newly-recruited Marines are belittled and terrorized by their drill sergeant; the second following a couple of the characters to Vietnam, to be belittled and terrorized by the war itself. The first time I saw the film, the transition seemed jarring, but over time I've come to see it as validating the sergeant's tactics as much as damning them. Of course his relentlessness makes them tougher, but Kubrick pushes the abuse into the realm of twisted poetry and mythmaking, into an exercise in fictionalizing oneself (no one ever gets called by their real name) and then wearing that fiction like a full metal jacket. If Matthew Modine's character "Joker" copes best, it's perhaps because of his head start on such a project with his dumb John Wayne impersonations and smart mouth. In Vietnam, working for the Stars and Stripes newspaper and chafing at its mediocre reporting values, he craves greater engagement, then gets a dose of it, and in his final voice over is retreating back to the imagined, to the world of the sergeant's invented "Mary Jane Rottencrotch," and thereby finding a measure of peace, even of satisfaction. Given time, he might retreat even further, maybe into a photograph as at the end of The Shining; the interiors in the first half of Full Metal Jacket often feels like it might have been shot in some of the back corridors of the Overlook Hotel, and the second half might just be taking place inside a more cunning and noisy metaphysical maze. Whether it's an "anti-war" film seems somehow like the wrong question; any attempts even to engage with it - as in Joker's simultaneous wearing of a peace symbol and a "Born to Kill" slogan on his helmet, explained as some kind of comment on the "duality of man" - seem draining and futile. As such, the film, even if it's not one of Kubrick's very best, is an astounding exercise in strangifying.


This is an excellent movie, for a while. R. Lee Ermey gives a riveting performance as the arch typical drill instructor, Sgt. Hartman. Ermey's performance should have earned him an Academy Award. In fact, it can be argued that Ermey's presence makes this movie special. Out side of that, the movie falters. Sgt. Hartman states clearly at the start that his order is weed out those who cannot hack his beloved Marine Corps. That means finding the bad apples. Yet, despite all his threats and abuse and blustering, nobody gets weeded out. The story line contains huge holes. First, regarding Gomer Pyle. Pyle fails at everything, yet Hartman does not flunk him out. Instead, he employs terror to try to get Pyle, a hapless screw up, to comply. Nothing helps, yet Pyle makes it. Boot camp has taught him only one thing: how to kill Hartman. Second, the story abruptly switches to Vietnam. The troops are cynical, demoralized and dysfunctional. They lack unit cohesion and esprit de corps. However, the story fails to explain the cause of their malaise. Joker, another bad apple from boot camp, is still in the Marines. Third, the character Animal Mother. His presence in the story is seems to make no sense, except that he is yet another bad apple that the Marines never weeded out. He's just more overtly anti-social. This entire movie depicts the military as a sham. Tell that to those who actually serve.