Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Full Metal Jacket
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Stanley Kubrick, Michael Kerr and Gutav Hasford based on his novel.
(number 455)

This movie starts out as the mother of all army training montages. Given it’s made in 1987 it doesn’t seem like it’s the origin of all those montages of men getting screamed at by their commander, climbing ropes, climbing over wooden structures and marching in formation and sounding off. “I don’t know but I’ve been told…” I recognise these scenes primarily from The Simpsons and from Space: Above and Beyond.

Also probably the origin of ‘Me love you long time’ and ‘what is your major malfunction?’ ‘thousand yard stare’ …well, it’ hard for me to tell for sure anyway. I was surprised at how familiar the prostitute’s talk was – South Park anyone?

Just about the whole first hour is men yelling at each other. It’s pretty intense. Then the second half of the film follows Joker as a military journalist travelling around Vietnam. Which is intense in a different way. The first half is personal horror – being put into a hard situation with regular bullying and constant scrutiny. The second half i the impersonal horror of being in an unwinnable war in a country that hates you.

Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Onofrio and Adam Baldwin all a little babies with their lives ahead of them. I really love Matthew Modine. He didn’t do that much really, but he’s always good in what he does. Here he plays ‘Joker’, the POV character and by necessity the sympathetic one who take the slow, scared Pyles under his wing. The scenes of how that relationship plays out intense and suspenseful.

Once the movie switches to out on the field, things get more relaxed and more real. The soundtrack picks up classic seventies songs where we’d had very little music previously (jut Kubrickian incidental instrumentals), the marines are all relaxed and jokey, and the landscapes are all gorgeous wrecked apocalyptic horror. I just want to keep on saying ‘intense’ basically.

I don’t have a way of knowing if this is an accurate representation of how things really were, but I can say that it’s not inaccurate. It’s definitely not sugar coating anything or making it look romantic or heroic over there.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah it’s hard not to love Joker when he stands up to bullies, is sensitive and intelligent. He’s a bit on the cold, logical side I guess. I love Animal Mother, because Adam Baldwin! It’s Jayne! The hero of Canton!! And I love Raptor Man for being Joker’s right hand.

Bechdel test: Noooooooo…. there’s a Da Nang street hooker who speaks but she’s never named. then another hooker later on speaks a little. This movie is definitely not about women. Well, apart from the very important female sniper right at the end which demonstrates Joker’s final step into the darkness of the war.

Best line:

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: I bet you’re the kind of guy that would fuck a person in the ass and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach-around. I’ll be watching you.

Animal Mother: You’d better flush out your head, new guy. This isn’t about freedom; this is a slaughter. If I’m gonna get my balls blown off for a word, my word is “poontang”.

State of Mind: Not as depressing and horrifying as I’d feared, but definitely not a fun ride at the carnival either. Maybe because everything in there was so very familiar from other movies and things riffing off it.

Watched movie count


One thought on “Full Metal Jacket (1987)

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