to the suck.
Sam Mendes' Jarhead is going to be raked over the coals.
It is going to be stacked up against films like Stanley
Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket and Francis Ford Copolla's Apocalypse
Now, and it is going to pale in comparison.
That is, it will fail to measure up if those doing the
measuring are thinking solely in terms of the Vietnam War,
and all of the tropes and imagery that goes along with it,
whether from cinema or news footage or documentary films.
The point here isn't to offend. It isn't to stoke fires
that need not be stoked. There is a tremendous amount of
respect held for those who serve their Country, so these
thoughts are not meant as an affront to anyone who serves,
has served, or plans to serve in the future.
Based upon interpretation alone, the fascination with
Vietnam and all of its trappings stems from the mess that
was made of the whole ordeal both on U.S. soil and overseas.
Films like Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now peered into
the souls of men who stared the war in the eyes and were
changed forever. Nothing will ever compare to the imagery
of Colonel Kilgore's men securing a beachfront to Wagner's
Flight of the Valkyries, for the sole purpose of good surf.
The hypocrisy of the war was fleshed out and explored without
answers. The backdrop was death and the canvas used was
napalm and destruction along the jungle skylines.
Kubrick's film is slightly more akin to Mendes' in that
his Private Joker is exposed to the psychological damage
engrained into the minds of troops prior to deployment before
tackling the wanton and raging devastation that served as
byproducts of the war.
The jarheads Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) describes
grew up on films such as these. Serving their country didn't
factor in the duality of war, it simply meant amounting
to something. Instead, they idolize what their training
allows them to, mimicking the actions of characters in Apocalypse
Now's famous beachside blitzkrieg the night before deployment.
It is convenient that the film is cut off by superior officers
before the more critical aspects of the surfing battalion
Swofford reads Camus' The Stranger, which details the
senseless killing of an Arab, yet another misinterpretation
of misappropriated violence and bloodshed. He is educated
and capable of seeing the inherent dilemma he has placed
himself in, yet he is there anyways, waiting day by day
for a chance to do the job that he signed on to do. Each
day that goes by, the anticipation for what was assumed
to be inevitable grows to an almost consuming size, and
with this stress comes new complications.
Early on, these jarheads appear to be a fraternity of
sorts, a group of guys anticipating a weekend trip to the
desert filled with villains in their crosshairs, with the
promise of a quick return and speedy victory. Their antics
are jovial to the point of antagonizing their superior officer,
Sgt. Seik (Jamie Foxx). Soon, the fear of isolation sets
in, and the marines are contemplating the faithfulness of
those left behind. A wall of shame is erected, where photos
of adulterous wives and girlfriends are chronicled as they
arrive in "Dear John" letters, equipped with photos and
The theme of betrayal runs deep in Mendes' Jarhead, not
just by those left behind, but by country, by ideals, and
by unsaid promises left unfulfilled. As Swofford battles
with news that implies that his girlfriend Christina is
destined to join others on the wall of shame, other jarheads
are greeted with care packages baring far more significant
forms of betrayal. The fact that one wife alerts her husband
of her infidelity by dubbing a video of her philandering
with the next door neighbor over a copy of his favorite
film, Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, points to more than
mere coital betrayal.
It is likely that Sam Mendes' film will go overlooked
and underappreciated, and it is even more likely that this
film, in its subtle and subdued ways, will ultimately piss
off a great deal of people expecting a bullets-a-blazing
war film. Hopefully, those who step into the theaters this
Friday will be open enough to giving Jarhead a chance.