Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Jarhead

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

Buy this DVD at Amazon.com

Rating: R

Starring:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Anthony Swofford
Peter Sarsgaard as Troy
Jamie Foxx as Staff Sgt. Sykes
Lucas Black as Kruger
Chris Cooper as Lt. Col. Kazinski
Scott MacDonald as D.I. Fitch
Damion Poitier as Poitier
Brianne Davis as Kristina
Ernest Ozuna as Sgt. Major
Tyler Sedustine as Harris
Jacob Vargas as Cortez
Laz Alonso as Escobar
Jocko Sims as Julius
Iván Fenyö as Pinko
Brian Geraghty as Fergus
Peter Gail as Doc John
Jamie Martz as Foster
Evan Jones as Fowler
Kareem J. Grimes as Welty
Donna Kimball as Reporter
Dennis Haysbert as Major Lincoln
Marty Papazian as Dettman
John Krasinski as Corporal Harrigan

Special Features:
"Swoff's Fantasies" with Commentary by Director Sam Mendes and Editor Walter Murch

News Interviews in Full with Commentary by Director Sam Mendes and Editor Walter Murch

Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Director Sam Mendes and Editor Walter Murch

Feature Commentary with Director Sam Mendes

Feature Commentary with Screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. & Author Anthony Swofford

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Languages
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 123 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film is based on former Marine Anthony Swofford's 2003 book. The following is from the DVD cover:

"Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this critically acclaimed, brilliantly unconventional war story from Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes.

Jarhead (the self-imposed moniker of the Marines) follows Swoff (Gyllenhaal) from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, where he sports a sniper rifle through Middle East deserts that provide no cover from the heat or Iraqi soldiers. Swoff and his fellow Marines sustain themselves with sardonic humanity and wicked comedy on blazing desert fields in a country they don't understand against an enemy they can't see for a cause they don't fully grasp."

Jarhead is rated R for pervasive language, some violent images and strong sexual content.

The Movie:
I wanted to check out Jarhead, but I missed it in theaters. The awards hype also made me want to see what the fuss was all about. When I finally saw it, it wasn't entirely what I was expecting. I was looking for a war movie, but there are no battles in this film. I was looking for a film that detailed the life of soldiers, but it ended up giving me a closer look than I probably would have liked. The end result was a very realistic film, but one that will make you think twice about the U.S. Military and its soldiers.

Jarhead will more than likely change your perception of our soldiers. They are shown as being eager for bloodshed, sexually obsessed, foul-mouthed, and generally psychologically messed up. It seems that the U.S. military trains them to be mindless zombies (hence 'jarhead'), then either throws them out into global conflicts or back into civilian life without thought of the psychological ramifications. The irony of Jarhead is that the characters didn't even see any combat or fire a single bullet, yet there were still casualties. Imagine what our Vietnam Veretans went through.

Despite showing the dark side of the Marines, Jarhead also shows their positive side. They are shown to be a close knit family that keeps each other in check. They are shown to be caring, sympathetic, and funny. They are portrayed as fathers and sons, businessmen and laborers. In short, they are portrayed very realistically (despite some of the stories reportedly coming from Marine urban legends). I was reminded a lot of the documentary Gunner Palace that shows the soldiers occupying Baghdad. You see all sides of them as well as their interactions with the Iraqis.

The acting in Jarhead is very well done. Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent as Anthony Swofford. He's made a career of playing disenfranchised characters and he proves he's worthy of it here yet again. He's supported by Peter Sarsgaard as Troy. Troy is incredibly disturbed and his eventual downward spiral is well depicted by Sarsgaard. Then there's Jamie Foxx as Staff Sgt. Sykes. His brashness, loud mouth, and attitude perfectly fit the role of the sergeant. Also noteworthy is Lucas Black as Kruger, the opinionated Texan who seems to say what many of the Marines are thinking but won't say out loud.

Sam Mendes also makes a visually striking movie. It's very different than either American Beauty or Road to Perdition, yet the imagery really sticks with you. From the whitewashed deserts of Saudi Arabia to the oil soaked regions of Kuwait, the film throws you in the middle of the footage you saw in news reports in the early 90's.

The Extras:
I was only sent the regular edition of Jarhead for review, but there's a 2 disc special edition out there, too. If you're a Jarhead fan, you might want to spend a little extra money for it. Here's what you'll find on the regular version:

"Swoff's Fantasies" with Commentary by Director Sam Mendes and Editor Walter Murch – It turns out that Swoff had a number of fantasy sequences in the film that were removed. One showed him imagining his drill instructor wearing a dress. Another showed him imagining blowing up a commanding officer in an outhouse. It was easy to see that if one was cut, they all had to be cut. They certainly gave the film a slightly wacky feel. Still, they're nice to see on DVD.

News Interviews in Full with Commentary by Director Sam Mendes and Editor Walter Murch – These are the full, uncut, adlibbed versions of the interviews with the characters. They give you a bit more insight into the character and the actor's ideas about how they should be portrayed.

Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Director Sam Mendes and Editor Walter Murch – There are around 11 or so deleted scenes. Some are rather benign like showing Troy and Swoff running around the base at night. Others are more significant. One shows the Marines getting a chemical attack warning and one of the soldiers panicking because he can't find his gas mask. Another scene shows Swoff and Troy using their sniper scopes to spy on the commanding officers and find out the upcoming battle plans. Another scene showed the Marines driving by a Saudi marketplace and getting a small taste of Arab life outside of the deserts.

Feature Commentary with Screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. & Author Anthony Swofford and Feature Commentary with Director Sam Mendes – Of the two commentaries, the one with the real Anthony Swofford is the more interesting. In it he tells about his real life experiences, more about the characters and events on screen, and other stuff. It adds a whole other level to the film and is well worth listening to.

The Bottom Line:
Jarhead is an intriguing look into the U.S. Marines. It's realistic and eye opening, but it is also quite disturbing. It's also a unique war film in that no battles are really seen on screen.

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