Welcome to the suck.
Based on former marine Anthony Swofford‘s best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the leading man, Jarhead tells the story of a young Camus-reading guy who got lost on his way to college and ended up in the United States Marine Corps. Jarhead accompanies Swofford and his comrades from the excruciating drills endured in boot camp to them being stationed in the Gulf where they have to maintain a ‘constant state of suspicious alertness’ for 6 months during which they practice, hydrate, party, booze and masturbate a lot before eventually the war breaks out and staff sergeant Sykes (academy award winner Jamie Foxx) designates the Marines ‘the righteous hammer of God’ against Saddam Hussein. With the launch of operation Desert Storm all hell breaks loose and the atrocities of war hit the marines full circle. But for Swofford who hasn’t fired off a single gunshot during the whole war it all ends without any satisfaction.
American Beauty director Sam Mendez and Donnie Darko lead Jake Gyllenhaal unite in this absolutely stunning movie. Mendez managed to direct a brilliant, rough and comic war movie that creates a unique atmosphere. For Gyllenhaal’s character, being a marine is not a career but rather a chapter in his life he has to endure. Even though Swafford is happy to serve his country and also more than willing to kill an Iraqi or two he doesn’t seem to make any kinds of judgments of what is going on right in front of his eyes. The movie’s nonchalance, indifference and unorthodoxy make this more than your average war movie. Jarhead is relevant, tries to make a point and plays with the notion of patriotism. Unfortunately, there are some minor flaws that slightly spoil an otherwise excellent picture such as a pop-heavy score that does not always hit the right tone and could generate misleading interpretations as well as the depiction of a rather stereotyped testosterone-fueled military life full of f-words, six-packs and male nudity. Nevertheless, it’s awards season (look out for Brokeback Mountain, All the King’s Men and Memoirs of a Geisha) and Jarhead as well as its brilliant cast should stick with you when nominating your year’s favorites.
Indulge in this beautiful hell. (3.5 out of 4 great dictators)
Rated R for pervasive language, some violent images and strong sexual content.