Jarhead stars the increasingly popular Jake Gyllenhaal and tries to play on the expectation of the war film genre. It provides the story of a new recruit to the Marine Cor’ (wooha), without ever really showing any war! Having joined the marines early in his twentieth year our hero manages to impress an elite Sergeant by trying to fend off six attackers in an initiation ceremony. He is then trained as a sniper, and becomes accepted as part of the unit . The training is influenced very clearly by Full metal Jacket, although unlike Kubrick’s production this just doesn’t have the punch.
The film concerns the effects of the months of waiting for war to start, rather than the fighting itself. Gyllenhall is superb as the disgruntled Jarhead in question, and is amiably supported by Peter Sarsgaard as his sniper partner, and Oscar winner Jamie Foxx as a fair but cruel Staff Sergeant.
The film opens with the predictable monologue and training sequence. These manage use every cliché (were they ever original?) such as psychotic trainer, ritual humiliation, and training exercise gone wrong. Once they have graduated Marine school, we move to the
When the operation finally becomes “Desert Storm” (wooha number 2.) we are unsubtly reminded of the biggest problems that have plagued recent combat; such as friendly fire, faulty equipment and emotional breakdown. There is even a nice touch where combat drugs and field trials come into question. The film doesn’t really take any side during the dramatization of this recent conflict, but then again it doesn’t want to. Peter Sarsgaard’s character addresses this issue early on when he states that for him the reason for this war is irrelevant. It is he who is here and has to survive.
Gyllenhaal seems lost within his character, and the film is better for it. Jamie Foxx exudes class with some poor dialogue, and manages to be aloof yet caring with equal measure. The film has everything you want from a cerebral war flick, yet some sloppy direction from Sam Mendes leaves an ambiguous feeling after viewing. So much more could have been done with this amazing cast, and huge budget.
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