Kubrick Collection: ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Full Metal Jacket

As far as war films go Full Metal Jacket is not your traditional war film. This one is up there with classics such as The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now, wherein the war the soldiers are fighting is only a means to tell the story in as much as the film is not about the war as much as it is about the men fighting it. The first act of Full Metal Jacket proves this.

Meet Sgt. Hartman played by R. Lee Ermey, that’s him above. He’s the hard ass boot camp instructor that opens the beginning of the film where we meet Joker (Matthew Modine), Cowboy (Arliss Howard) and Gomer Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio). Here is where cinematic greatness begins in terms of a happy accident by casting Ermey as a technical advisor that soon became a major piece of the cast as well as one that brought such lines as, “It looks to me like the best part of you ran down the crack of your mama’s ass and ended up as a brown stain on the mattress,” or, after he first meets Joker he makes a nice impression by punching him and saying, “You little scumbag! I got your name! I got your ass! You will not laugh. You will not cry. You will learn by the numbers I will teach you! Now get up, get on your feet! You had best un-fuck yourself or I will unscrew your head and shit down your neck!”

Of course Sergeant Hartman’s “teaching style” has an impact on everyone involved, but the overweight Private Pyle gets the true brunt of his “affection” and it results in a major moment in the end of the first act. If you haven’t seen the film then don’t mouse over the image above unless you want to spoil it… If you have seen it, then mouse away and let the memories come swimming back.

Cut from boot camp to Vietnam and a scene that has now been immortalized by 2 Live Crew of all people as it made the chorus line for their classic rap song “Me So Horny” as the Joker and Rafterman (Kevyn Major Howard) are propositioned by a Vietnamese hooker, “Me so horny. Me love you long time.”

Full Metal Jacket is told in the familiar Kubrick breakdown of three acts. The first is boot camp, the second sets up our cast of characters for the third act as Joker is now in Vietnam and covering the war as a correspondent for Stars and Stripes, Cowboy is leading a group of Marines, and we are introduced to Adam Baldwin as Animal Mother (pictured above) who portrays the alpha male swinging dick of the group. Look at him, with those bullets wrapped around him you’d think he was in a Schwarzenegger flick.

The third act takes us directly into the battle and it has some of the absolutely coolest imagery I have ever seen in a film. Early on Kubrick got his start when he sold an unsolicited photograph to Look Magazine, and soon became one of their staff photogs. He soon found interest in movies and became the director we know him to be, but just looking at that screen capture above it is obvious he never left his life as a photographer behind. Something about the blurry image of Animal on the left to the ever-so-important building in the background are the perfect marriage of imagery and story.

On top of the surprise hidden behind Gomer Pyle above the end of Full Metal Jacket has its own surprise, and while the film is obviously about the effect of war on young soldiers and the overall “importance” of war altogether, you are left with plenty of questions once the credits begin to roll.

As far as the DVD and HD DVD are concerned there is very little to say. Until now there hasn’t been a release of Full Metal Jacket with anything more than the trailer offered as a special feature so the featurette on this disc and the audio commentary with D’Onofrio, Baldwin, Ermey and critic Jay Cocks is a welcomed addition. Cocks pretty much guides the commentary as none of the men were together when giving their thoughts on the film, but D’Onofrio’s opinion is certainly the most interesting as he obviously soaked in every minute of his feature film debut, a debut he gives absolute credit to being the sole reason he has a career in Hollywood.

Feature wise this is the barest of the five film collection, but out of all of Kubrick’s films I actually think this is the most straight forward of the bunch and isn’t in need of a ton of interpretation. Everything that needs to be said is pretty much said in the commentary. Such as how it was all shot in London and how at the end Animal was originally intended to cut off the sniper’s head and throw it out the window. Yeah, I had to make sure I got that in this review even if I had to black it out in spoiler text.

I am not a huge fan of war films. I have seen so many of them and they pretty much all tell me how shitty it is. However, this is a film to own, just as is Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter. These are war films that not only bring you the aspect of war and how fucked up it is, but they also bring something more to the table that make them special.



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