Full Metal Jacket

December 15, 2009
Stanley Kubrick is amazing. Just amazing. With great masterpieces of cinema such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining, Kubrick is no doubt a brilliant director, and one of my personal favorites. He's once again proved himself in this picture, Full Metal Jacket, with an engrossing narrative and subtle use of symbolism.

This film isn't so much about plot and character, as it is about the film's themes and processes ala 2001. The closest thing we have to a main character would be Pvt. Joker, who we follow from his training days to his campaign in Vietnam. From there, we get an interesting and original look on military men, as well as the brainwashing that comes along with the lifestyle. Speaking of this characteristic, I have to commend Kubrick for making a film on this aspect of war-life - a much-needed refreshing take when compared to the well-trodden, almost cliche now, looks on the "horrors of war". This isn't to say war isn't horrible, because Kubrick points this out a few times in his own film, it's just that the theme has been beaten into the ground.

The symbolism in this film is also richly fascinating, its subtlety being on the verge of cunning due to how down-played it is. From the very beginning, we're exposed to Kubrick's subliminal messages with the opening scene depicting numerous soldiers have their heads shaven. The hair is typically shaved in a military environment to dissolve individualism - the first of many brainwashing techniques - in the cadets, so that they might bow to the will of ol' Uncle Sam. However, it could be seen in a more disturbing way, as if the cadets' heads were being shaved as if for a brain transplant with their minds being switched with that of a cold, heartless, and American killer.

Also, the death of feminism and childhood is also prevalent in the film. This is seen in the first half, or training days, of Full Metal Jacket with Leonard aka "Pvt. Pyle", after the dim-witted character from The Andy Griffith Show. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but this "baby" - as called by the drill instructor, Hartman - is humiliated and hurt by his commanding officer, continuously having his spirits crushed until the point of being broken. This leads the character, who starts out as a smiling, hopeful cadet, to become cold, vicious, and unflinching. Destroying feminism, as if this will somehow increase the masculinity of an individual, is expressed more in the second half than the first. The ending is a huge example of this theme, which is all I'll say about that for spoiler reasons.

That's only the tip of the iceberg, too. I could go on for several articles on the symbolism of Full Metal Jacket - religion, sexual tension, government conspiracy, the duality of man, the descent into hell, propaganda and its acceptance, and so many more juicy themes. However, this a review and not an analysis, I must go on...

Even if one is ignorant or doesn't want to see these symbols, the film can still be enjoyed on its most basic of levels, just like 2001. However, as I said for that said film, the film can be enjoyed on a far greater level if you put your mind into the film. It's not an overtly anti-war film, nor is it an overtly pro-war film. It's simply cinematic genius, which is just what to expect from Kubrick. My one complaint, though, is that the film dragged just a little bit in a few areas.

Conceptually complex, Kubrick provides yet another example of what makes him one of the greatest cinematic and original directors of film history.

9.5/10 - Fantastic

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