Blind Spot: Full Metal Jacket

r3-Full-Metal-Jacket

Going into this film, I’d heard that it breaks cleanly into two parts, and that most people vastly prefer the first part. Coming out of it, the first statement is self-evident, but I ended up liking both parts quite a lot. The first part is set at Marine boot camp, with a hard-nosed drill sergeant putting a group of raw recruits through the wringer. The second part is set in Vietnam, following Joker, one of the more accomplished recruits, now a correspondent for a military newspaper.

I can see why people like the first half more – it’s tightly focused and basically flawless. As a microcosm of the boot camp world and how it either makes or breaks you, it’s self-contained, intense, and brilliant. On its own, it would work just as well as an extended short film. Vincent D’Onofrio (who I didn’t even recognize) goes from adorable to terrifying, and I believed every second of it.

The second half is much more sprawling, but that’s what war is. Boot camp is controlled, tight, and regimented. It’s supposed to prepare you for war, but war, especially a war like Vietnam, is unpredictable. There’s no way to prepare for the situations the men find themselves in once they get there, and that’s the point. The first half makes you think the drill sergeant is putting them through hell. But he’s not. War is hell.

There are lots of other things I could say about the film – most of the music seems incongruous and yet is utterly fitting, which I love. There are a ton of great shots, from the tracking shot leading the sergeant around the barracks in the beginning to the silhouettes against a blood-red sky in Vietnam. I didn’t expect to like this movie all that much, let alone enjoy the experience of watching it, but I did. A lot. I should’ve known to trust Kubrick.

My Souvenir: There are so many I could take from this. The sergeant’s opening monologue, Pyle’s success (albeit short-lived) with the Joker’s encouragement, the look in Pyle’s eyes in the bathroom, the intensity of the whole sniper showdown, etc. But I think I’ll take a thematic moment. After the sniper goes down, Joker’s face is half lit, half in shadow – his face showing that duality that he previously indicated somewhat facetiously with the “Born to Kill” slogan and the peace sign button. The whole movie kind of comes together at that moment, purely through visuals and symbolic means. That’s what filmmaking is all about.





7 comments

  1. Utter cinematic perfection. For the record, I do actually prefer the second part.

  2. I remember the first time I watched this not feeling like I “got it”. I watched it the same summer that SAVING PRIVATE RYAN dropped, so my sensibilities of what made a ‘war film’ were shaped by it, and by PLATOON. I liked it well enough, but as it ended I just felt…empty(?)

    Now that I’ve become more acquainted with Kubrick, I take a lot more from it – even that off-kilter, Halfyard-approved second half. Just thinking back on it has me humming the theme to The Mickey Mouse Club.

    Between this movie and PATHS OF GLORY, it’s amazing to see what Kubrick could do with the war genre, ain’t it?

    My souvenir (what a fabulous idea!) would be the grilling Joker gets about the peace button (“The Jungian thing sir!”). Such snappy dialogue.

    • I feel like that “empty” feeling may be part of the point, no?

      The unusual juxtapositions of music are jarring but incredibly effective.

      Gee, I wonder where I got the souvenir idea from? :) I initially picked it up to help me find things I like from films I may not care for as much, which wasn’t an issue with this film, but hey, it’s always fun to pick out something specific to hang on to.

  3. Hi, I saw your website through the bloghop. This is a great film. I remember seeing it as a teenager and not quite knowing what to make of it. But it’s one of my favorite war movies. Vincent D’Onnfrio is just a brilliant actors. Perhaps one of the most underrated. This film really highlighted that. I will say that R. Lee Ermey was once a real drill Sgt and it shows. Kubrick had a real knack for casting the right people in the right roles.

    • Thanks for the comment! Yeah, I doubt I would’ve known what to make of it as a teenager, either. It’s one of those I’m sure I’ll get even more out of when I rewatch it in the future.

  4. I actually like both parts almost the same, however you’re right; the first part is much more tight and I guess shocking. But to me, they both compliment each other and work well as a whole.

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