Stanley Kubrick is truly an expert craftsman when tackling certain film genres. He took the sci-fi genre to new heights with the mesmerising 2001: A Space Odyssey, got under our skin with the seeping psychological horror of The Shining, and examined a criminally-warped mind in A Clockwork Orange. It was only a matter of time before Kubrick decided to tackle the topics of war and the psychological effects it can have on certain individuals, which is what we have with Full Metal Jacket, a beautifully crafted anti-war movie that sees Private Joker going from a raw recruit in a boot camp to being a war reporter in Vietnam.
It’s a brutally effective movie that explores duality as reflected by Private Joker’s statement about the “duality of man”, symbolised by wearing a peace symbol in his jacket while having “Born to Kill” written on his combat helmet. The characters in this film, in particular those who arrive in the depths of Vietnam in the second half, have two different sides to them. They may be highly-trained killers ready for war, but their sense of friendly camaraderie and humanity hasn’t been completely stripped away from them despite the brutal harsh reality of war and the boot camps. We also have moments of characters losing their sense of sanity, as depicted both by Private Pyle’s slow descent into insanity, as well as the moment where a Vietnamese corpse is used as a “guest of honour” amongst the American soldiers.
The performances completely sell the movie’s themes with Matthew Modine perfectly nailing the right balance of light-hearted humour with intense vulnerability and subtle trauma. Vincent D’Onofrio is utterly superb as he nails the slow descent into madness, while R. Lee Ermey is a total scene-stealer as the tough-as-nails Gunnery Seargeant, delivering some of the movie’s most quotable lines. The score also plays a very pivotal part in the film with Vivian Kubrick (Credited as ‘Abigail Mead’) delivering haunting metallic drones that foreshadows the movie’s most intense scenes, while the movie’s more agreeable moments are accompanied by hip 60’s tunes like The Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love” or The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird”.
Full Metal Jacket is another one of Kubrick’s masterpieces, boasting phenomenal direction as well as featuring several iconic and memorable characters played by extremely talented performers. Even Marines themselves have commented on how this film perfectly captures what war is like and what life in the Marine Corps is all about, which just goes to show how much of a talented craftsman Kubrick is. Full Metal Jacket is both one of the greatest war movies ever made, as well as one of Kubrick’s very best.
Dir: Stanley Kubrick
Scr: Stanley Kubrick, Michael Herr, Gustav Hasford
Cast: Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, Dorian Harewood, Arliss Howard, Kevyn Major Howard, Ed O’Ross
Prd: Stanley Kubrick
DOP: Douglas Milsome
Music: Abigail Mead
Country: UK, US
Run time: 116 mins
Full Metal Jacket will be released on Ultra-HD 4K Blu-Ray on September 21st