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  • Jarhead
    • Jarhead
    • Runtime:125 min
    • Release Date:2014-04-17 20:29:30
    • Director: Sam Mendes
    • Genres: Biography, Drama, War
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:Jarhead
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jarhead is well acted and striking to look at and, if you're a Marine
looking to remember what it was like to be out in Saudi during Desert
Storm, I'm sure it does the job more than adequately.

Unfortunately, for the rest of us who weren't there (and with all due
respect for those who were), Jarhead is a bit of a snoozefest. As if to
make up for the fact that nothing much happens (even when they finally
get out on patrol things are pretty uneventful much of the time), they
seem to take turns going stir crazy.

You can't blame them, and one understands that this is character-based
drama rather than an action movie, but I'm afraid I was bored a lot of
the time, no matter how many hundreds of f-words are dropped in (which,
I accept, accurately represents the mode of speech).

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It is by far the worst movie. No I am sorry the worst documentary. No
no I am sorry again the worst Mockumentary. I don't know which one was
it but it failed in all cases.

I wonder why would anyone make a movie and forget to give it a purpose.
I mean when you watch a movie a part stays in your head. One that you
think about and wonder about for some time but in this case as soon as
the credits roll, no well before that you realize that it was a failed
attempt at making a war movie from the documentary of Gulf war.

There was only one thing that I found good which was the theme music
but you will forget that well before the credits roll so my advice to
all is to stay away.

I would never have written this review but for the lost 2 hours of my
life I wanted to help others save that instead for watching their wall
paint get dry.

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The old war movies are so simple. Our heroes are eventually going to
meet that adversary and finish the issue. This is a film about the
boredom, the alienation, the disconnectedness that takes place in
wartime. The men in this film are hung out to dry in the desert.
Remember the first gulf war was fought mostly with high tech weapons
and bombing runs. Of course, there were ground casualties and close
fighting in some places, but this film is more about the tension that
develops when those with their fingers on the triggers are made to
stand down. I think the most gripping part of the film is when the oil
fields are burning a and sludgy rain of oil ash and black particles
rain from the sky. These guys suffocate on this. It's like a plague
from the Bible. All they can do is trudge through it. There is much
more to this film, but the bottom line is what the heck is the enemy
and what do we poor soldiers have to do to confront it? The answer in
this case is to wait and see.

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Director Sam Mendes, the man responsible for modern classics American
Beauty and Revolutionary Road, almost always seems to know what he's
doing, be it heavy (Road to Perdition) or light (Away We Go). This is
why his 2005 war film, Jarhead, is such a disappointment. The concept
of the film is great and the cinematography is, at times, as beautiful
as you'll see in a war film. But damn, some of the attempts to make the
film seem … err … hip, are embarrassing. The incessant use of
unfitting, of-its-time music – used as an attempt to keep the movie
light and fun – is so blatant and annoying that you can't help but
cringe. The playful moments amongst the Marines who make up the story
of this film are borderline cheesy. Actually, they're not borderline
anything – they're flat out cheese.

This is a shame because, aside from the then-hip casting of lead man
Jake Gyllenhaal (at the time a sudden cult figure thanks to Donnie
Darko), the casting was great. The writing was great. The production
was great. These few small mistakes keep Jarhead from being the best
war film of the Naughts.

The story of Jarhead is simple. Our hero, Anthony Swofford (Gyllenhaal
in his first major studio lead role), joins the Marines just as
Operation Desert Shield is about to hit. He spends a lot of time
adjusting and questioning what he's doing, but even more time wondering
what his girlfriend is doing back home. (We're made to feel like this
girlfriend of his is his everything – amusing, considering the
character is 20 years old.) At the urging of Seargent Sykes (Jamie
Foxx), Swofford becomes a Marine sniper, which he is very good at. He's
he part of an ace team of shooters, paired with the always excellent
Peter Sarsgaard, as Cpl. Alan Troy.

The crew of Marines, led in rank by Sykes and spirit by Troy, almost
never appear scared. Aside from Skarsgaard, who leads the way as far as
acting, Lucas Black (as Chris Kruger) stands out. He's a Texas boy who
goes back and forth between airhead and the most reasonable man in his
squad. At one point, when the Marines are discussing the point of the
war, Kruger puts it straight: "I know these oil guys; I've been around
them all my life. They drink oil like water. This is a war about money;
we're here to keep the oil cheap." No one believes him. Later in the
film, when the soldiers are told to sign a waiver and take an untested
pill that can supposedly fight the side effects of nuclear weapons,
Kruger again stands up, spitting the pill out after fighting with
Sykes. These are some of the most memorable scenes, not only because of
the subject matter, but because Black (who most know as the young,
twangy boy in Sling Blade), is a heck of an actor.

But don't get excited, this isn't an overly political film. There are
points made here and there, but, mostly, the film attempts to show what
it was like to be a Marine during Operation Desert Shield. The movie
moves slow as we watch the Marines sit and wait. They foolishly hope
for action as the days pass. There are side stories here and there
(watching porn together, sneaking alcohol, accidentally burning up a
tent full of explosives, etc.) that remind more of an American Pie
movie than Apocalypse, Now.

But that's okay, in a movie this slow, I'm guessing the producers and
Mendes knew they'd need some cheap thrills. Personally, I'd rather have
the film be shorter and less fluffy, but, when you cast Jake
Gyllenhaal, you almost HAVE to bring the fluff. My personal favorite
comedy bit, and maybe the only one that works in the entire film,
happens when a helicopter flies over the Marines when they're at their
lowest point. As the helicopter passes, blaring the Doors song "Break
On Through," Swofford looks at the sky and says "that's Vietnam music;
can't we get our own music?" After about 80 minutes the film starts to
pick up. Our crew of Marines are in the 112 degree desert, chasing a
group of fire-happy Iraqi soldiers. The way cinematographer Roger
Deakins (known mostly for his work on The Shawshank Redemption and
every great Coen Brothers film) shoots the desert footage is amazing. I
don't want to give anything away, but will say that, between
Skarsgaard's powerful performance and Deakins' cinematography, Jarhead
is a must-see. Sometimes it feels like a painfully by-the-books war
film and at other times it stands alone – thanks to Deakins' amazing
eye and mastery of his craft. (Towards the end we get to see some
incredible footage of a desert filled with burning oil wells. It's the
kind of cinematic imagery film fans dreamt of before all this crazy CGI
stuff became so standard. I recall being wide-eyed and out of breath
through many of these scenes.) Is there a big bang at the end? Does the
suspense and conflict finally come as it does in, well, every war film
ever? Well … maybe. Kinda. I don't quite know how to explain it. I will
say this: upon it's initial release, the ending made the average
movie-goer angry and many cinephile types happy. It's uncompromising
and subtle, which is strange when you consider how much, at times, it
felt likes Mendes was trying to make an artsy war film for the popcorn
crowd. Instead, he ends up with a film that is only a few cheap
mistakes away from being a classic.

Jarhead is full of memorable lines, but is best summed up in the final
minutes when Swofford says "every war is different; every war is the
same."

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