Full Metal Jacket (1987) Movie Review
***Reader-Submitted Review***By: Hossein Aghababa
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Gustav Hasford (novel "The Short Timers" & screenplay)
Stanley Kubrick (screenplay)
Michael Herr (screenplay)
Matthew Modine - Pvt. J.T. 'Joker' Davis
Adam Baldwin - Animal Mother
Vincent D'Onofrio - Pvt. Leonard 'Gomer Pyle' Lawrence
R. Lee Ermey - Gny. Sgt. Hartman
Dorian Harewood - Eightball
Kevyn Major Howard - Rafterman
Arliss Howard - Pvt. Cowboy
Ed O'Ross - Lt. Touchdown
John Terry - Lt. Lockhart
Tim Colceri - Doorgunner
Kieron Jecchinis - Crazy Earl
Jon Stafford - Doc Jay
Papillon Soo - Da Nang Hooker
Peter Edmund - Pvt. 'Snowball' Brown
Full Metal Jacket: Story of a Brutal Society
"Full Metal Jacket" is a war movie directed by Stanley Kubrick in a seemingly two independent parts. The first part is concentrated on a platoon of marines being trained by sergeant "Hartman". The story is focused on private "Gomer Pyle" who is a maladroit newcomer. Private "Gomer Pyle2 is scorned and vituperated from the very beginning day as he is chubby, clumsy, and even gourmand. However, he does not show the signs of a slothful person. The canteen in Parris Island is a metaphor of a society. It can be anything, a graduate school, a company, a factory, and even a family. What happened to Private Pyle may happen to any individual within a society. Many people are singled out for the troubles incurred by them from the society, intentionally or unintentionally. The society does not take responsibility for those who have lagged behind and this is the hallmark of a brutal society. Although pairing Gomer Pyle with a skillful person like Private Joker may partially improve his performance, but the mentally devastated Pyle is not able to catch up with the others. It is a reality that the society is not able to predict the threshold of tolerance of individual as it was the case for Private Pyle who ended up with assassinating his instructor and himself. Even the collective punishment policy, which emanates from criminology in the sense that all people are responsible for social deviance of an individual, does not work out sometimes. Firstly, the society may revenge back from those who are responsible for the collective punishment. The blanket party for punishing Private Pyle was such a reaction. Secondly, sometimes all the ways are blocked to let someone return to society.
The character of Private Joker who is apparently the favorite of the novelist as he is alive all along the movie has been tried to be portrayed as a leftist. The promotion he receives from his fastidious instructor is also interesting. Private Joker who is a journalist is sent to front by Lieutenant Lockhart accompanied by Private Rafterman (a combat photographer). This Private Joker is the connecting bridge of the two pats of this movie especially with this motto on his helmet: "Born To Kill". Although many believe that these two parts are tenuously connected, Kubrick tries to depict the internal and external aspects of brutality. The second part is devoted to illustration of the Vietnam War. Although this work is not as controversial as his other works such as Paths of Glory, Lolita, and A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick narrates the Vietnam War in an overcritical manner. The Kubrick's view is unreservedly unique. He produced this movie as real as possible leaning on American popular culture. At some moments, the viewer may forget he/she is watching a movie as it resembles a documentary. All the details of a war have been incorporated in a movie produced in 1987. Kubrick’s main art was intangibly playing with the psyche of viewer. That is, he takes the viewer’s hand and brings him into the screenplay and makes him to unconsciously make judgment.
The movie is rife with American military popular culture elements. The "rifleman's creed" is a good example:
"Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my company. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but peace!"
In the second part of the movie where the squad leader gets killed by a booby trap, Cowboy becomes the commander of the group. A Viet Cong sniper repeatedly shoots and wounds Eightball and the squad medic Doc Jay who die eventually. This situation puts the squad in a limbo to save the wounded folks and to entrap the sniper from the other hand. While attempting to find the sniper, cowboy the Private Joker's friend from the canteen, is shot dead in the arms of Joker. At this time, the viewer sympathizes with the remnants of the squad and feels their wrath and motivation to find the voracious sniper! The building where the sniper has taken advantage of as an ambush is besieged by the ulcerous soldiers. They cautiously arrive the building fearing the presence of professional gunmen. While a viewer may expect seeing a bunch of Viet Cong soldiers, American trained marines expose an adolescent girl who has assassinated their brothers. Kubrick has tried to disclose something else. He has probably tried to challenge the whole war by this question: "What was really behind this war?" Was it worth the life of many Vietnamese people and Americans? Finally, the "Born To Kill" guy, a journalist and a joker, shoots the moribund girl.