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Full Metal Jacket

Review #4 - Full Metal Jacket:
(Stanley Kubrick, 1987)

Having seen Apocalypse Now, Deer Hunter, Platoon and now, Full Metal Jacket. I've finally watched the four essential and frequently discussed war-psychology films, satisfying myself somewhat.

Let's see how FMJ stacks up:

The training part (agree with common consensus) is definitely superior to the war acts. It’s a perfect depiction of military training and its effects on the fragile, Lee Ermey nails the qualities of a senior drill instructor and Vincent D’Onofrio greatly plays the frailty in the form of Private “Pyle”. A harmless, clumsy oaf who descends into a killer (and eventual suicide) after experiencing the worst of officer training. “Joker” is the protagonist though it’s not very clear from the start, main character actually, there’s not much of an antagonist in this film. Kubrick has a knack for unlikeable mains, see Alex in A Clockwork Orange, even though the stuff Alex does is downright despicable, I sympathised for him in prison and once released back into the world.

Private “Joker” on the other hand, is just an annoying, smart-ass brat. I couldn’t stand him but at the same time wasn't put off. There’s no character development for four-eyes, his persona is consistent both in training and in the battlefield. That may be the point though, some come out of training mindless, killing machines like Pyle and Animal Mother whilst others escape unscathed. However, the ending could be interoperated as a turning point for Joker, hesitation overcomes him in what’s his first kill and right after, Joker is singing the Mickey Mouse song, brushing off the tense prior moments carelessly like the zombies he serves with.

FMJ has a lot more than depth than its counterpart Platoon, it’s not narrowly an anti-war film, as with all Kubrick movies, nothing is what it appears to be. The scene where they’re pitted down by a single sniper is intense admittedly, I thought Private “Cowboy” was particularly great in that scene, the line “Shut the **** up Joker” may have contribute to it but ahhhhhh, he was great anyways. The editing of 8-Ball and his partner being hit by a barrage of bullets is amateurish and looks out-of-place as it constantly shifts between the chatter of Cowboy’s squad, though would’ve exceptional for its time and there’s solace in the great looking blood effects. The haunting music in Pyle’s suicide scene is monumental in adding to the scene as if it wasn’t already emotional and deeply affecting.

I thought Animal Mother was Pyle’s brother at first, great resemblance between appearance and inner self. Two cold, merciless individuals made so by military brainwashing. Difference is Animal Mother is more capable, though I’d argue Pyle become as capable as any Marine by the end of training. Vincent D’onofrio was practically mesmerising in his role. The war-torn locations are magnified by the great cinematography which accurately shows the destructive impacts of battle.

Full Metal Jacket is a fantastic film for its various performances and not so black and white take on war, among other things.