DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick
Examining Full Metal Jacket again forces a viewer to ask what should I take away from it or what did Kubrick disguise in it?
I watched the film twenty years ago and can remember being fascinated by the first half of it seeing new recruits in boot camp. Mesmerised by Private Pyle ( D’Onofrio) and observing him become a Vietnam soldier. All the recruits are trained by one Sgt. Hartman( Ermey) who can definitely dish it out.
The saying “War is Hell” can be replaced with the following statement.
“War is dehumanising”.
Kubrick gives his viewers a splice of regimented torture in the first forty five minutes of the film. Boot camp, we watch as the chubby Private Pyle gets bombarded with insults and verbal slams, one wonders what he needs to do to survive. We also meet Private Joker (Modine) who is correctly named after his personality. He holds this film together from start to finish from boot camp to the war in Vietnam. We see him give his cynical and quick remarks to those around him as he helps support Pyle train up in boot camp. The film takes a different approach in the second half of the film and enter Animal Mother (Baldwin) who you can argue is a fiery soldier that has a one tracked mind. He is the character that Hartman wants Pyle to be so it can even be considered a continuation of how one man was dehumanised at boot camp and the other is what happens after dehumanisation has taken effect. Kubrick’s Vietnam shows us characters like Joker, the group of soldiers, the prostitute, army table conversations of what is needed versus what is wanted and sniper shootouts. What do we learn from this? The Vietnam war was a messy hell where no one knew what was going on or is it a director not being able to pull back on characters. Don’t get me wrong, Joker is a great character but he needs to be deepened. Profound moments don’t seem profound.
Was Kubrick 100% committed to directing this film? Was he the Sergeant wanting to perfect the first half of the film so much that he forgot about the last half. Did he embody Animal Mother just firing random shots because he had his gun the camera? Perhaps some of us just want perfection and run dry so we fire random shots trusting that it hits something.
Full Metal Jacket is a film that aims to present itself as a satirical look at war. The satire and irony is present but it’s slightly unclear what it wants to say about it. Perhaps that’s the point.
Post your comments below and tell me your favourite scene and character.
Matthew Modine as Joker
Adam Baldwin as Animal Mother
Vincent D’Onofrio as Pyle
R. Lee Ermey as Sgt Hartman