The Screening Room Reviews: Full Metal Jacket

It’s evening at KFHS Radio. Mad Mike and Foxx Jackson sit in their preferred chairs. DJ TV is once again missing, though his candles from the last show remain in place. Mad Mike appears to have brought in a miniature radar dish and is attaching it to the computer, he looks distant. It has been confirmed that Foxx’s headset is in fact sentient, and they have become very… friendly, throughout the course of the week. The clock strikes 6:30 and it’s once again time for “Foxx Jackson and Mad Mikes’ Kubrick Power Hour,” today featuring Full Metal Jacket.

Full Metal Jacket, based on the novel “The Short-Timers” tells the story of Private Joker (Matthew Modine), a young marine who enlists during the Vietnam War. Joker attends basic training at Paris Island under the stern “tutelage” of Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey). While there, he meets the incompetent Private Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio) and his soon-to-be best friend Private Cowboy. After completing training Joker is shipped off to Vietnam where he functions as a journalist for Stars n’ Stripes magazine. Throughout his tour Joker endures the horrors of war, forges bonds of brotherhood, and discovers the true nature of his own duality.








Foxx Jackson:  Kubrick does it once again in this thought-provoking war drama. With a plot surprisingly relevant to itself for a Kubrick film, Full Metal is chock full of themes about duality and the morality of war. Perhaps the best example of this duality is the humor found in many of the situations throughout the films. While it’s hard not be amused by Lee Ermey’s portrayal of Sgt. Hartman, in reality his treatment of Pvt. Pyle would be considered deplorable. Perhaps the most shocking scene in the film is a helicopter gunner mowing down civilians. I found myself and Mad Mike laughing at the outrageous personality, yet I had to stop and think in uncomfortable silence about the act that had just transpired. Do we find this gunner’s ridiculous dialogue more amusing than we find his actions horrifying? Or are we simply masking a darker nature none of us want to address? This is the crux of Joker’s character. He continually reacts to stressful and morally questionable situations with humor and rarely displays true emotion, with the exceptions being See Spoiler 1 Below. Since Joker himself cannot properly display emotions, we witness his consciousness through other characters. The people he surrounds himself with are avatars of the various emotions he may be feeling i.e. Pvt. Pyle- cowardice and fear (which ultimately broken and forced out), Cowboy- doubt and insecurity, and Animal Mother- rage and the primal instinct to kill. This is just another example of Kubrick’s brilliant writing and direction.

“Full Metal Jacket” looks absolutely fantastic and I would even contend that it set the standard for modern war films. It’s mind-boggling to think that it was all shot in England. Kubrick’s use of fire in several scenes to progressively give scenes a natural red glow over time is particularly impressive. The soundtrack is also simply amazing, featuring an original score as well as a number of hits from the Vietnam era.

I would have to give “Full Metal Jacket” a “buy it.” I simply can’t find a reason any film to not own as many Kubrick films as possible. While you may not get as many watches out of this as you might “The Shining” or “Space Odyssey” it’s easily one of the best movies ever made.

Spoiler 1









Mad Mike: Having seen all of Kubrick’s most popular films besides Full Metal Jacket, I was excited to take another look into Kubrick’s mind. My conclusion, Full Metal Jacket is a different style for Kubrick, and that is not a bad thing. Full Metal starts off in a tense confrontation between marines and their drill sergeant in boot camp. This scene does a perfect job of illustrating how unimportant each character is in the eyes of the sergeant. The dialogue and intensity continues with an excellent performance by R. Lee Ermey, creating my favorite moments of the film, the first act. The first act concludes where we then move to the second and third acts. I enjoyed the questions brought up in the final moments of the film however, the second act moves a little slow and although I still enjoyed it, It seems a little disjointed compared to the self-contained first act.

There’s no denying how Full Metal Jacket influenced many war movies to follow. Many of these films have nods and parallels to Full Metal Jacket including Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and Fury. Moreover, as a director who I have known for his subtleties in film-making, Kubrick seems to leave these out in this film, leaving the viewer to take the story face value. Although it can seem a little heavy-handed, I still enjoyed my viewing of Full Metal Jacket and plan to revisit it again soon. I’m giving Full Metal Jacket a “Buy It.”
As always the Screening Room rates on a scale of:
Buy it
Watch it
Burn it
Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” is certified as “Buy it” by the Screening Room.

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