Jarhead: a review

By Nicoletta Sabella
November 18, 2005

When thinking of war, thoughts of destruction, shooting and killing come to mind. Unlike the quintessential war movie, “Jarhead” has more to offer than brutal homicide and tactical combat.

Based off of Anthony Swofford’s memoir, “Jarhead,” which came out on Nov. 4, is the account of a Swofford’s experience in the 1991 Gulf War as a Marine sharpshooter. Swofford, played by actor Jake Gyllenhaal, has no choice but to join the Marines explaining to the sergeant, “Sir, I got lost on the way to college, sir!”

Comical and captivating at the same time, the film grasps your attention for the full 123 minutes, keeping you at the edge of your seat. With a tagline of “Welcome to the suck,” you can only imagine what life would be like as part of the Marines during wartime in Saudi Arabia. Terminology like ‘the suck’ and ‘the crotch’ mean the Marine Corps, along with ‘jarhead’ which is slang for a Marine, are continuously used throughout the film.

Not far into the movie Swofford’s squad is shipped off to Operation Desert Storm. Sand is everywhere and temperatures reaching the hundreds are unbearable, not to mention the fact that the squad is on constant alert for fear of being attacked.

The bulk of the plot is a glance into Marine life including: the detachment from everyday life, bullying by higher-ups and most importantly the strong bonds formed between fellow soldiers. Mainly drinking, joking, fighting and pranks (the typical 20-year-old male pastimes) cover up authentic feelings that these young men contain. Terror along with the hunger to kill frequently jog their minds. Boredom plagues their lives. Undertones of lost love and paranoia post the militarization process and isolation phase are touched upon and recapped before the end. There is also a slight dip into the political views of the soldiers, but not so much to invade the movie.

The effect of war on a soldier’s life is not only portrayed during the events of the Gulf War, but afterwards as well. Flashbacks during war of life before and after the wartime are scattered into the film, giving a glimpse to the rest of the story.

The photography throughout the entire motion picture is spectacular. Almost serene images of fiery oil wells burning up in the background as silhouettes of soldiers dig their foxholes fill the screen with orange-red-hellish colors. Director Sam Mendes captured such picturesque scenes without using storyboards. Mendes, who also directed “American Beauty” and “Road to Perdition,” waited to pick the image upon entering the scene, and also heightened the visual experience by saturating and overexposing film.

In addition to Gyllenhaal, who can be seen in such films as “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Donnie Darko,” “Ray” and “Collateral” star, Jamie Foxx, plays Staff Sergeant Sykes. Peter Sarsgaard plays Troy, Swofford’s best friend, also seen in “Garden State” and “The Skeleton Key.” The vast array of young fresh-faced actors makes this not-so-war-like film appealing to young adults as well as former war veterans.

Posted to the web by Shane Evans

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Nicoletta Sabella

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