An uncompromisingly bleak film, as cold and distant as they come, Kubrick's FULL METAL JACKET is a perversely fascinating movie--one that answers no questions, offers no hope and has little meaning. In a way this is perfect for what the film has to say about war, but you find yourself
numbed and apathetic as the film progresses. What one is left with is a remarkable display of the resources of cinema and a bludgeoning use of extreme violence which ironically undermines Kubrick's good intentions.
Highly structured, the film is presented in two parts: the first details the training of a group of Marines at the hands of the sadistic, foul-mouthed DI, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (Ermey); and the second follows one of the recruits, "Joker" (Modine), a reporter for Stars and Stripes who finds
himself in combat at the height of the Tet Offensive. There are no characterization and no heroics in FULL METAL JACKET; instead, Kubrick coolly shows the systematic dehumanization required to turn men into killing machines, then sits back and watches as they perform their assigned task.
From the shaving of the recruits' heads, the assignment of generic nicknames, and the profane bellowing that replaces conversation, to the orderly, ritualized existence of camp training is designed to drain all traces of individuality and humanity from soldiers and replace them with a cold hatred
that can be directed at the enemy without hesitation. With his sarcastic humor and contradictory nature, Joker is the only character who retains a modicum of personality. Kubrick, however, dangles him before the viewer and then pulls him away slowly until Joker, too, is drained of his humanity.
Technically, FULL METAL JACKET is as flawless as any other meticulously designed Kubrick work and boasts superb cinematography by Milsome. Filming entirely in England, Kubrick found a military barracks outside London that doubles for Parris Island in the film. He also used a vast, deserted
gasworks in London's East End, a plant area that had been bombed to ruination during WWII, and further destroyed the area to great effect.
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