Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Not one of the better films to watch on veterans day.

Marine recruits (including Matthew Modine and Vincent D’Onofrio) endure the grueling ordeal of basic training and later face the unrelenting Viet Cong during the 1968 Tet Offensive in this grim Stanley Kubrick drama, based on a novel by Gustav Hasford.

Personally, I love Stanley Kubrick films. I think his way of film-making is so rich and grand that when he died not many knew what a legacy he left behind. Kubrick right here doesn’t stop to impress me.

One thing to point out about this film is that it isn’t your average normal war film. There are many scenes of combat, but most of it is what goes on before being shipped out to the war, and what goes on when you are shipped out in the war. Some will find it boring, I found it refreshing to finally see what these soldiers we’re like before the war, and in between it.

The fantastic element of the movie is its portrayal of the moral ambiguity of that war, the soldiers’ awareness of this issue, and their commitment to fight on, not for country or cause, but for one another, as well as an undefined inertia.

The way Kubrick has this movie filmed is also very extraordinary. He films these takes while war is happening and the camera moves up and down as if you were watching the view of a soldier in combat with them. I felt like I was right there with them and felt very much more compelled to the story. Also, there are plenty of other just beautiful shots that really do make this film look even more spectacullar.

The screenplay is what really plays out well in this film. The dialogue here feels so realistic and so genuine that I thought I was watching a real film about real people. There is also some little blends of black comedy that really do make this film great and a lot more enjoyable than some would think.

Though I liked Kubrick’s direction I just don’t think it was meant for this type of movie. Kubrick is known for making these sc-fi thriller films about the unexplainable. With this film he gets a little too dynamic and doesn’t hit the right cord with this film as he has done with his plenty of others. I think that his directing is good just not made for this film, and what takes it away from being great.

The little supporting acts in this film really do shine. R. Lee Ermy does the best job in this whole film and fully does capture this essence of a hard as nails drill sergeant, who with his orders and yells, makes this film amazing. The only problem I had with the acting was that the film is centered around Matthew Modine, and he doesn’t really do a great job in this film and I didn’t find him very believable until the very end.

I also thought that the ending could’ve been so much better. Kubrick is known for his great endings to any film, and he plays the ending with a cheesy and corny not so anti-war message ending.

Consensus: Though it is good not great, Full Metal Jacket has great direction from Kubrick, realistic screenplay, and some great visuals, but suffers from Kubrick becoming his own worst enemy early on in the film.



  1. I really thought the second half of this film paled in comparison to the first half. The film loses so much when R. Lee Ermey isn’t on screen even though Kubrick’s effort are admirable. It’s not one of his best overall films in my opinion, but the first half is as good as anything he’s ever done.

  2. Is Kubrick really known for sci-fi thrillers? I mean, I could maybe grant you A Clockwork Orange (though its themes go far beyond a mere thriller setup), but 2001, the film that could best apply, is an examination of man’s dependency on tools as well as a search for God, even if God might simply be an alien race accelerating our evolution.

    No, Kubrick’s films, more often than not, are pitch-black satires on the nature of human absurdity and horror. His films are so detached so as to examine the species with a scientific eye, and also because in many cases his emotional detachment is funny in a deadpan way. Full Metal Jacket is a satire on the military’s dehumanization and perverse methods of unification in the same way that 2001 satirically positions mankind as slaves to its tools and gadgets (which makes the film even more prescient than its depictions of future technology already made it) or Eyes Wide Shut delves deep into sexual politics and what might happen when the sheltered rich have to confront something wholly outside their ken — and I’m not even mentioning the outright masterpiece of satire that is Dr. Strangelove.

    The second half of the film (well, it’s longer than half, more like 2/3rds) is necessary. Without it the film does not payoff the boot camp scenes. The first act is about breaking these men of their humanity, to the point that one ultimately “succeeds” (Joker) and one is driven to madness (Pyle). In Vietnam we see the full impact of this conditioning, as Joker and the rest of the soldiers are largely without emotions and whatever trace of humanity was left in him ends when he shoots the sniper (though one could argue he did it out of mercy).

    The final scene is one of the most brilliant things in Kubrick’s oeuvre, as a finale second only to the philosophical and borderline spiritual conclusion of 2001. These men enlisted essentially as boys, were placed into a crucible to break them down and mold them into “men,” and at the end they unify in song to the Mickey Mouse theme, a perfect, deeply ironic representation of the perversion of youth to make killers.

  3. Good review although I don’t think Kubrick would take too kindly to the science-fiction reference. Indeed, his most sci-fi-ey work “2001” could be argued as science-fact. “Full Metal Jacket” is one of the best anti-war movies – I too find the second half less affecting than the first which does detract from what is a brilliant piece of cinema.

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