#87: Full Metal Jacket (1987)

When and how did I watch this?

October 27th, 2016 on a friend’s PLEX account.

Had I seen this film already?

Some of it.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

I remember having watched the majority of the first 45 minutes of the film when I was a lot younger — definitely too young.  The memory is very raw: I remember the fat Private “Pyle” struggling with boot camp obstacles, being publicly ridiculed by the drill sergeant several times, and finally (spoiler alert) ending his life in a state of complete madness. I don’t know what happened for the remainder of the film — it was likely I was bored with the rest, or I moved on to something else after the traumatic scene.

What do I know about it now?

Watching the first act again provided me with greater understanding of the abuse Lawrence/Pyle undergoes; I hadn’t remembered Joker’s empathy for the man, and but what I found odd was how Pyle had access to huge caliber bullets. Nonetheless, it’s still a compelling portion of the film, and really, the story.

The film moves into a couple more acts, but not smoothly.  While I don’t require a transition from moment to moment, there was very little continuity between each scene. I was also becoming annoyed with Joker.  I didn’t feel sorry for him nor even like him, despite having elevated knowledge. Slow motion blood shots, incongruous transitions, choreographed cliche responses between characters, and a series of “war crouches” pretty much characterized the remainder of the film.  And then, after the dramatic climax (“Shooooot meeee…”), a band of soldiers (where did they all come from?) walks off stage right, flames still burning in the background from who-knows-when, singing loudly in enemy territory.

I’m not sure what Kubrick was going for here, but it felt like he had some opportunities to develop some nice stories and characters and instead resorted to using imagery that really didn’t make sense in the end. Kind of a bummer for a Vietnam film.  Even Platoon in its dramatic motif reached higher.

What are some themes in the film?

Vietnam, in a nutshell: apathy, violence, prejudice, humanity

Did this affect me personally?

The boot camp portion certainly did, as mentioned.

Why is this ranked #87?

It has a cult following. “This is my rifle…”, “Me so horny,” etc. are lines that many people know about.  It seems Modine’s narration tried to add profundity, but it’s lacking.  It has a good amount of gore, which people like. Vietnam is a popular genre.  And yes, being a Kubrick film helps tremendously.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She didn’t watch this one, per my warning.

Would I watch it again?

Not intentionally.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

It’s worth a look, but it’s not required reading.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

It’s hard to deny Kubrick.  He’s the genius here, and I’m just the guy watching his movies and making remarks.  But in the end, I was disappointed.  I expected some better insight into the Vietnam War from this guy, but I was instead given a series of gratuitous violent images, sex jokes, and forced dialogue. Sure, apathy and twisted perspectives of the war existed, and it was certainly presented, but I think it could’ve been done better. Does it belong on this list?  Yes, because of its prestige, but certainly not because it’s a valuable film, beyond the first 45 minutes.

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