Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Peter
Sarsgaard, Lucas Black
RunTime: 2 hrs 3 mins
Released By: UIP
Date: 9 February 2006
on former Marine, Anthony Swofford's best-selling 2003 book
about his disorienting firsthand pre-Desert Storm experiences
in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. Jarhead (the self-imposed
moniker of the Marines) follows "Swoff" (Gyllenhaal),
a third-generation enlistee, from a sobering stint in boot
camp to active duty, sporting a sniper's rifle and a hundred-pound
ruck on his back through Middle East deserts with no cover
from intolerable heat or from Iraqi soldiers, always potentially
just over the next horizon. Swoff and his fellow Marines sustain
themselves with sardonic humanity and wicked comedy on blazing
desert fields in a country they don't understand against an
enemy they can't see for a cause they don't fully fathom.
you're a soldier who's being deployed for battle, here a couple
of tips to ease the pressure and pain.
1) First of all, Godspeed and thanks for serving and protecting
2) Second, when going to war thousands of miles away, the
toughest thing you must deal with is leaving behind those
you love. This is why you must destroy those bonds and don't
forget to say goodbye. Embolden the hatred. This way no one
will miss you and you won't miss anyone. And you won't have
to worry about betrayal and all that relationship garbage.
3) Grab a PSP.
Based on the 2003 memoir by Gulf War veteran Anthony Swofford,
the film stars Hollywood "it" boy Jake Gyllenhaal
as the book's author and narrator. The film charts Swof's
course from joining the Marines to the rigors of basic training
to a stint in Saudi Arabia, where the U.S. is stockpiling
troops for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, circa
1990. And it's in Saudi Arabia where the action ends and the
waiting begins until there is a reason to strike. Six sizzling
months in the desert later, under the hawk-like eye of hardened
staff sergeant Sykes (Jamie Foxx), they're all still waiting.
At this point, everyone's screws have pretty much loosened,
and these relentlessly trained soldiers are itching to kill
someone—anyone—if only to break the stupefying
boredom. They've been all pumped up with no place to go for
far too long, and there are just so many more days of trash
talking, sand football, rifle cleaning, and scorpion fighting
these grunts can take.
Anyone expecting Sam Mendes' Jarhead to be another Platoon,
Full Metal Jacket, or Saving Private Ryan will be sorely disappointed.
Unlike those war films, this one's not about what it's like
to fight, but rather what it's like not to fight. And that
alone gives this exceptionally produced and directed drama
its own unique place on the cinematic battlefield. The question
then becomes, "Is this particular look at one young marine's
adventures—or lack thereof—in the first Gulf War
enough to qualify as a satisfying entertainment?" It's
a movie that requires both patience and artistic appreciation
to fully enjoy its merits, and that might just prove to be
too much work for most mainstream audiences.
Directed by Sam Mendes, helming just his third feature film
after 1999's "American Beauty" and 2002's "Road
to Perdition" which garnered a total of 14 Academy Award
nominations and six wins, he’s not bad for a beginner.
Although billed as a drama, it actually comes off as a comedy
for its first two-thirds. No matter what the intention, it
works either way. There are a lot of truly funny moments in
this film as the soldiers interact, but these moments are
smartly crossed with some poignant, moving material. In my
opinion, Mendes gets it right again, bringing a visually stunning
and genuine story to the screen. "Jarhead" succeeds
because it's a different kind of war movie. It's not about
what happened in the Gulf War, but rather what didn't happen.
It's about training and conditioning for an event that turns
out to be completely different from what you imagined it would
The screenplay for the film, adapted from Anthony Swofford's
memoir of the same name, recount his experiences from boot
camp to Iraq and back again. Although this film adaptation
can be a little long-winded at times, it still manages to
work on several different levels. It's not action-packed,
but that's the point. During their stint in Iraq, Swofford
(Jake Gyllenhaal) and his fellow troops are eager and ready
to fight. Inside, though, they're shaking. They're scared
of the bombs, the nerve gas and of an untimely death. It's
a sharp contrast, and each soldier handles it in his own way.
They must all find ways to pass the time in the desert as
they wait for the ground war to begin. These scenes are really
the heart of the film. The soldiers do everything you'd expect
a soldier in waiting to do. They train, play football, think
about home, masturbate and talk about all the killing that's
going to happen. But it doesn't happen and soon frustration
sets in. All the months of training begin to form an itch
that they can't scratch. One emotional scene that stood out
was when Swofford becomes so disillusioned that he threatens
to shoot his own friend before finally breaking down.
there's such vigor and commitment to Mendes' approach to the
gritty, if somewhat existential, material that even the film's
long, episodic stretches of time-passing hijinks and military
malaise hold your interest. Aided by a superb production team,
especially cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose khaki-infused
lensing is hauntingly beautiful, Mendes has created a compelling
work that's as visually memorable as American Beauty and Road
Unfortunately, William Broyles' script adaptation is as short
on characterization as it is on combat scenes, so it limits
our emotional investment in Swofford and his fellow marines—and
in the movie itself. We learn just enough about each of the
guys to distinguish one from the other, but not much more.
It's a testament, then, to Gyllenhaal's complex, electrifying
performance as the conflicted Swofford that his character
feels as vivid and present as he does. True, many of his thoughts
and observations are expressed in wry, well-written voiceovers
that give us additional insight into the author/soldier, but
it's the way Gyllenhaal fills in the cracks with a pained
grimace, a soulful stare, or a hair-trigger reaction that
rounds out his character and makes him so eminently watchable.
With his work in recent films, and the upcoming Brokeback
Mountain, he's well on the way to becoming one of his generation's
most accomplished and versatile screen actors.
The rest of the Jarhead cast is impressive as well, especially
Jamie Foxx as the take-no-prisoners squad leader. His brash,
mesmerizing monologue about his love of military life is a
standout and it makes you wish the film had more of these
personal moments. As Troy, the sniper with a dubious criminal
past, Peter Sarsgaard is by turns centered and mysterious,
though equally believable when he lets loose. The other grunts,
also fine, include Lucas Black as inquisitive Texan Kruger,
Evan Jones as loudmouth hick Fowler, Brian Geraghty as the
shy Fergus, and Laz Alonzo as macho Cuban-American Escobar.
Chris Cooper and Dennis Haysbert also appear, in what are
basically extended cameos, as a pair of gung-ho senior officers.
Though Jarhead isn't exactly an anti-war film, it doesn't
fly its flag too high either, if at all. Though mostly committed
to the cause—or at least to their jobs—the marines
here are never 100% sure what they're really doing in Saudi
Arabia. This sentiment only gets worse as time wears on and
the fight to stop "Saddam Insane" starts feeling
less urgent, less authentic. The shifty parallels between
this Gulf War and the current war in Iraq are subtly present
throughout the film, but the politics of it all are generally
kept at arms' length.
Jarhead emerges as a different type of war movie. It’s
not the “hoo-rah” film the previews lead one to
expect. Lacking in the usual thrills and excitement of previous
motion pictures about warfare, it’s not easy to watch.
For those do find it their cup of tea, its performances and
images will stay with you long after the theater lights come
war movie like no other. Who knew watching men bored out of
their minds would be so fascinating)
by Lokman B S