Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Full Metal Jacket

 I saw this before Two Mules for Sister Sara, but as stated I wanted to review that film first. Full Metal Jacket is regarded as one of the great films ever made and I wanted to mull over in my mind what I would write.

 Well no how much mulling I did there is of course nothing I can add to this film that hasn't been said as such. All I can do, which is the aim of this blog, is to add my appraisal and personal take on each film I see.

 I remember when this film was released. It came out about the same time as Platoon. Both films were regarded as America's attempt to come to terms with it's involvement in Vietnam. It reminds me so much of a recent German film which attempts to reconcile and understand its recent history. I speak specifically of the brilliant Downfall. An outstanding film which must be seen and understood by all.

 Full Metal Jacket attempts for Americans much the same as Downfall did for Germans. Whilst Nazi Germany and Vietnam are polls apart in terms of actions and intents, both have left scars and legacies on each countries societies.

 This particular film was released only twelve years after America's final involvement in the war and its end. The war was still fresh in America's eyes, and both Platoon and Full Metal Jacket were brave, topical, and early attempts to put their country's soldiers view point and experiences into the fore front of the public thinking on the war. I believe very strongly that Full Metal Jacket is the far superior film. It certainly helps that one of the truly great directors, Stanley Kubrick, directed it. So many of his films are controversial but I feel controversy is only people's attempts to block out the truth.

 Kubrick's brilliant (and one of my most favorite films of all time) A Clockwork Orange is an example of this. It wasn't released on to video until several years ago because of its perceived danger to the public. It has dated but the message is still crystal clear. Like all Kubrick's great films this one has a clear message. It isn't a judgement on America's political involvement in the war but the viewpoint from the ordinary men sent there to fight it. His aim of the film is to point out what American soldiers saw and felt in combat in a war they knew to be unpopular back home and the Vietnamese lack of interest in them being there.

 The harsh realism of the Marine Corps training is uncompromising and unfortunately for many viewers over shadowed the point of the film. The battle scenes are superb and some of the very best ever filmed. They are not as graphic as those of Saving Private Ryan, but again this is a film about what ordinary American soldiers felt emotionally rather than concentrating on the brutally of combat.

 For me personally having a near life long interest in military history this is an important film. Not just as cinema but as putting a view point across to the masses. So many people never know what those who see combat endure. We never know what they feel about the war they are involved in. Full Metal Jacket is an outstanding film in bringing to us the world of the combat soldier within a war he knew was unpopular whilst not really knowing what he was supposed to be fighting and dying for.

 I personally think Saving Private Ryan is the greatest war film made. It finally de-bunked combat in the most explicit way possible. Its reception is very similar to Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. There Peckinpah attempted to make a film that de-bunked the romanticism of westerns by showing the true nature of killing. By its day it was explicit  but unfortunately it only brought in the patrons to see the blood and the point of his film was lost on most. Saving Private Ryan attempted the same thing, to portray combat as it really is. It has many flaws as a film historically but it is still utterly uncompromising  in its brutality.

 The explicit nature of Saving Private Ryan is what, for me, makes it the best war film ever made. But Full Metal Jacket, whilst overall is the better film, and is second on my list. It is an intelligent, uncompromising look at an unpopular war through the eyes of those who were on the battlefield. Its message is powerful and sad, and was a great, and brave film at a time when the scars of Vietnam were still open and raw on the American conscience.

Brilliant, unmissable, and without doubt one of the greatest films ever made.

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