Full Metal Jacket

November 19, 2011
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With war films, there are plenty of ways, in my opinion, to go wrong. For starters, most film makers make the film predicable if you already know the history of the war that is featured. Then you have the dull acting with the best being people yelling at each other and firing guns. But, once in a while, there comes a war film that changes everything and gives a new perspective to war films. This is where Stanley Kubrick's epic Full Metal Jacket comes into play.

Fresh off of directing the horror epic The Shining, Stanley Kubrick directed this little gem after learning of a book called Dispatchers and decided to, instead of making a film about the Holocaust, to make this film. While the production was shaky to the point that production almost stopped, what came out of it is a film that I consider one of the greatest war films ever (next to Kubrick's own Paths Of Glory, Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, and Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds).

The first thing that makes this film stand out in terms of a film has to be the way the story is told. If one thinks about it, this film has no plot, but instead tells two separate stories: the training of a Marine and fighting in the Vietnam war. While people argue saying that it is all part of one story, that is a tad bit hard to take in when it goes from one scene of them at the end of the first story then, with no warning, goes to the next story without any title cards or cues except for the building around the area and Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made For Walking.

Now, with direction, this is not really a stand out for Kubrick. With all of his previous films, he used new ideas that give his film a sense of creativeness. With 2001, it was the special effects. With Clockwork it was the music. Even with Paths of Glory it was the way he filmed the war scenes. Here, the only thing that really made things stand out would have to be the direction of then unknown character actor R. Lee Ermey as the Drill Sergeant Hartman. Not only does Kubrick direct this Sergeant from Hell, but mixed with the acting of Ermey, they set a new standard for military personal in films to the point that his performance has become iconic and parodied to no end. He, truly is, the best actor in the first half of the film.

For the second half, nothing really stood out to me in terms of acting. I mean, it has the same wonderful acting that all of Kubrick's films have, but here none of the performance had the same feel. Hell, the entire second half feels different from the first half, but then again that is not so much of a bad thing. Kubrick was known for making his audiences feel isolated when watching his films and with the duo stories, it does that. At one point, you feel like you are watching an inspirational story of a complete moron of cadet. Then it changes to a fight for survive in Vietnam. If Kubrick was intending to make his audience feel isolated, then he accomplished something great here.

The only other really good part that stands out to me has nothing to do with the film itself. It has to do with how iconic this film is. I mean, I already talked about the acting of Ermey, but then you also have the soundtrack that made every song beyond popular that was featured in this film from Hello, Vietnam to The Rolling Stone's Paint It Black. But the best song that was used would have to be The Trashman's Surfin' Bird that would later gain popularity by being on the hit show 'Family Guy' while that same show would parody this entire film later on in the series.

Almost all of Kubrick's films have become iconic, but none so much as this film. Then again, next to The Shining, this is Kubrick's most mainstream film he made. But, is it his best? No, it is not. But, as a film and a war film it is impressive without a doubt.





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