A group of Marines endure harsh treatment at boot camp, and
are then subjected to the terrifying reality of the Vietnam War.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Stanley Kubrick, Michael Herr, Gustav Hasford
Starring Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio,
R. Lee Ermey, Dorian Harewood, Arliss Howard,
Kevyn Major Howard, Ed O'Ross
Based on the novel The Short Timers by Gustav Hasford
Oscar Nominations - Best Adapted Screenplay
Stanley Kubrick travels down the genre of military/war films with a sort of confidence that will make this film last forever. You forget early on that you’re watching a Kubrick product, because R. Lee Ermey absolutely shreds his performance up, using his vocal chords to their fullest. The performances reel you in, while the setting causes you to believe whatever is happening has more meaning than anything in your personal life.
Kubrick had so much respect by 1987, that he was free to pursue whatever he wanted behind the camera. His gutsy direction in the Vietnam War-inspired film is admirable. There aren’t any grade-A actors, but instead perfect plotting and dialogue riddle throughout, keeping us enthralled at all times.
Camaraderie is quite possibly the most intriguing thing about war films. Character progression is very apparent early in this film, as the first 30 minutes are full of tension between one of the marines, Pvt. Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Emery). We have no idea what any of these characters were like pre-Marine Corps, causing every action to have major importance. Pyle stacks on reasons for the rest of the platoon to dislike him, forcing him to be a man that so many young males get roped into being. Pvt. Joker (Matthew Modine) is asked to shadow Pyle and be his mentor in some ways. He is reluctant, but a transformed Marine who follows orders. 40 minutes in and we have one of the most thought-provoking scenes in the history of film.
There’s a bridge in this one and without the easy on the eye scene of Joker and the Vietnamese hooker, we would be lost as ever. Not even a few moments later and you’re in the middle of a brutal gun fight, scattering your mind, refusing to let you process just yet. The pedal continues to be pressed at an unpredictable rate. It’s really two movies in one, the first being about the transformative process of joining the military and the second about the actual actions of these humans we convince are born to kill. Stanley has a classic in Full Metal Jacket, arguably the best war drama of all time.