Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987, UK/USA)

                Made after a 7-year gap following the release of The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket was a commercial success on its initial release, but failed to resonate with many critics – including Roger Ebert, who gave the film a fairly negative review. It is hard to believe that the film received only one nomination at the 1988 Academy Awards – a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. As the film and several of the performances within it have become truly iconic (especially R. Lee Ermey), this is hard to believe. Yet coming off a film like Platoon, it is easier to understand that this was not the Vietnam film wanted at the time of its release.

               Full Metal Jacket is ostensibly a war film, but touches on much deeper subjects. The film is notably divided into two distinct parts. The part that is most often recalled and appreciated is the first segment, which takes place at a military training camp on Parris Island during the war. It primarily follows the character of Leonard Lawrence, also known as “Gomer Pyle”, and his transformation from a soft weakling into a literal killer. This segment of the film is the more overtly Kubrickian feeling of the two, and has become eminently quotable. The performances of R. Lee Ermey and Vincent D’Onofrio are incredible.

               The second half of Full Metal Jacket concerns Matthew Modine’s “Private Joker” as he works as a journalist in Vietnam and gets involved in heavy combat. This segment seems to be less popular than the first overall, but is nevertheless an impressive technical achievement. We see Joker’s evolution here, and the film’s Jungian themes are even on more prominent display, with the figure of “Animal Mother” (Adam Baldwin), a ruthless machine gunner who effectively represents a rebirthed Leonard Lawrence. The finale is deeply tense and incredible filmmaking.



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