Rated: PG-14. Explain the ďwar is hellĒ part to a rational kid and he or she will be okay.
Genre: Drama War
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Running Time: 1:55
Review by: Neal Bailey
Review Date: 11/17/05
DVD Features:
News Interviews in Full with Commentary by Director Sam Mendes and Editor Walter Murch
Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Director Sam Mendes and Editor Walter Murch
Feature Commentary with Director Sam Mendes
Feature Commentary with Screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. & Author Anthony Swofford


This movie, from start to finish, is a very solid character drama about the perils of war and the desire to do something meaningful. A lot of what I expected was diminished, watching this, not because the movie fails, but rather, because we live in a society of expectation of message. Where you watch a movie, and you expect it to take a stance.

This movie is refreshing, in that it reminds me of Charles Bukowski in some strange way. You read a Bukwoski book, and you see abuse of women, drinking, a self-abusive spiral of hate and poetry, and yet, thatís not really a point. Itís more of a celebration of what it means to be normal and human and want more than you are, without questioning the means.

Thatís a lot like Jarhead.

In Jarhead, we follow Marines from boot camp to war. We see them thrill in killing. We see them question themselves and the war. It never steps right out and says that itís pro-war or anti-war, it just chronicles it, and it does so with impassioned characters, strong cinematography, and a very vital, very current setting that we should all regard a little closer.

It was almost a pump-fake. Go in expecting to learn something more about the motivation in the new gulf war, and instead learn what it is to be a soldier, and what horrors hold true despite our new, modern context.

There are no scenes that particularly stand out as classic, but almost every scene is compelling, from the oil well eruptions to cleaning out the shitters with gasoline, to boot camp and its accidents, to the stifling but identifiable presence of Jamie Foxís dedicated commitment to the core.

The crux of the film, the major dilemma, is not the typical happy ending, which I always like. The mains are seeking their purpose and intent in life, and just as theyíre about to achieve it, they have it snatched away. The rest of the movie, brief though it is, is coping with that failure, and how people handle things when they canít achieve their goals. Some die, some write down their experiences.

Is it a pretty example of humanity? No. Is it extraordinary character work with a stunning backdrop? Yes. And thatís generally the kind of movie I like. I plan on buying this film because of it.

The only real drag on this story is the curiosity I have as to what drove Gyllenhaalís character to want to kill, to want to join the military. A slight summary might have helped. Much to the chagrin of all of the people painting this as an anti-war movie, I also find that the consequences of war are less shown than inferred. Nobody has their face blown off. None of the GOOD GUYS really get hurt. We see burned Iraqis, but we never really see the face of war. Maybe then again thatís what the film is intending to show, that we are inured to the perils of war because we no longer see them, just cheer them. Either way, itís a slight hole, detracting only slightly from the whole.

A good movie. Worth a see in a theater? I donít know that it offers the special effects and war dazzle you might expect on a huge screen if you plunk down ten bucks. Is it a good movie? Yes. Most people have portrayed this as an anti-war movie. Others have called it a rah-rah America film. I want to know, so Iím going to read the book.

  • Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire originally vied for the lead role in the film.
  • Christian Bale and Joshua Jackson were both considered for the role of Swoff.



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