A Summary and Review of Full Metal Jacket

A Summary and Review of Full Metal Jacket

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  1. Key Characters and Actors

    Pvt. Joker: Matthew Modine
    Cowboy: Arliss Howard
    Gomer Pyle: Vince D’Onofrio
    Eightball: Dorian Harewood
    Sgt. Hartman: Lee Ermey
    Animal Mother: Adam Baldwin
    Rafterman: Kevyn Major Howard


    Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, "Full Metal Jacket" is based on the novel "The Short Timers" by Gustav Hasford. The story is broken up into two parts and is narrated by private Joker who, in the second half, becomes a war correspondent. The first half takes place in boot-camp the second half focuses on the soldiers in the field during the Tet offensive. The second half proceeds like your standard war movie, so it’s guaranteed you will only remember the first half of this film.

    Movie’s First Half

    The movie’s first half is a harrowing look into the life of new Marine recruits at a boot-camp under the command of the verbally and physically abusive Sergeant Harman. This segment follows Joker, Cowboy and the other recruits but mainly focuses on the hellish relationship between Pyle and the Sergeant. Lee Ermey, a former Marine NCO, plays Sergeant Hartman who was made to be hated. His constant harassment and physical and verbal intimidation are meant to break down the individual identieis of the recruits turning them into replacement parts for Uncle Sam’s Lean Green Fighting Machine.

    The movie follows Pyle’s transformation through boot-camp from an dim-witted young man with a silly grin and childlike innocence, to an instrument of death. Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as Pyle is heartbreaking and chilling. The final look he gives to Joker, is one not soon forgotten.

    Movie’s Second Half

    Following D’Onofrio’s evil death stare the movie jumps quickly to Vietnam where the recruits are now full fledged Marines in the heat of battle. This movie certainly shows a different side of the Vietnam war. Whereas the majority of Vietnam films are shot in the jungle. Kubrick shot this film on stages and outdoor sets in England. Although it is a good looking movie it lacks the grit and reality of other Vietnam films like "Platoon", "Apocalypse Now" and "The Deer Hunter".

    Kubrick offers up a lot of great characters that you want to learn more about, but he never gets below the surface to allow the audience to really care about any of them. The only character Kubrick seems to dig a little deeper on is Matthew Modine’s character Private Joker. He explains briefly about the writing on his helmet “born to kill” and wearing a peace symbol making you want to learn more. But, in the end, there is nothing below the surface and he just comes off as arrogant and selfish.

    There are a few scenes that make you think something exciting and memorable is going to happen, but again they just fizzle out. The scene with the camera man and reporter panning the troops hiding behind sandbags in a bunker is truly disappointing. It starts off strong, making you think something is going to happen to them, then the soldiers start talking to the camera and you think they’ll be some big incite. But, sadly, it’s just a series of one liners sounding regurgitated from other war movies.

    The part where they tracked down the sniper is powerful and if the movie had ended there with the kill shot, that would have been great. Sadly, Kubrick ended the movie with the Marines marching to a destination singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song, turning the characters into a joke. Supposedly it was done to highlight the fact that the majority of the soldiers in Vietnam were still boys (the average age was 19). But, having seen what they saw, and been through what they did, they weren’t boys anymore. This movie could have been utterly amazing with an intense first half that ended with a shock and a second half ending with awe after building audience’/s relationship with the characters giving, but it just didn’t happen.

    A good movie overall, and solid performances by all the actors. But again, you will only remember the first half.

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