Welcome to the suck, eh? Well, I wouldn’t quite say the film sucked, but I did have a few issues.
Jarhead is the adaptation of Marine Anthony Swafford’s book about being sent to the Gulf War. Essentially, you are seeing the story of one man here, not a full war movie. "Swaff," played by Jake Gyllenhaal, describes his thoughts about other armed forces, members of the Marines, his girlfriend back at home, the entire Marine experience from boot camp to heading to the desert. The term "Jarhead" refers to the brain of a Marine – empty and ready to be filled/brainwashed by the military.
Here’s what I liked about the film. It’s not a war movie per se as it’s not very violent at all. Mainly you’re seeing what becoming a Marine does to a person – how it shapes that person for life. The story shows how excited Marines get about the kill, and how crushing it is to not have the chance to do their duty in the time of war. You see, Operation: Desert Storm was pretty much won in about 3 hours thanks to the Air Force. This was excruciating for Swaff’s sniper partner in a very disturbing and climactic scene. There were some very real moments in the film as you could feel the pain of being away from loved ones, the camaraderie amongst the individuals spending months in the desert together, the sickening feeling of innocent people being killed*, and how easily people can warp young minds into behaving certain ways.
What I didn’t like about the film was probably the pomp. How to burn the feces in the latrines with diesel fuel is only for dramatic effect. Also, according to Swaff, all a Marine thinks about is masturbating and killing. I think the story would have been good enough without the "let’s throw some controversial stuff in" simply to make the audience gasp. We pretty much already got it – joining the Marines is an insane thing to do, even without getting to burn the poop or masturbate all day.
Gyllenhaal is pretty good, but Peter Sarsgaard and Jaime Foxx are exceptional in supporting roles. I think people who are currently protesting the war in Iraq would learn a lot about why we are there, which is to eliminate Saddam and liberate Iraq, simply by seeing this film. I’m not going to get too political – in fact, I myself was starting to question what the heck we are there for right now. However, my interest has been rekindled and my support renewed. It’s not really a Republican or Democrat thing; it’s about trying to assist people who want to live free of dictatorship. Heck, if it can get ME to think about a political issue, it can’t be that horrible of a film.
3.5 out of 5.
* There is a scene where the Marines come upon a torched traffic jam of cars and busses – every vehicle and person fried beyond recognition. One Marine says, "They were trying to get out." However, there is no indication whether the Iraqis killing their own people or the US did the damage. This honestly kept me awake that night.