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Full Metal Jacket (1987)

One rifle, one gun. One for killing, one for fun.

Starring:

Adam Baldwin

Arliss Howard

Dorian Harewood

Ed O'Ross

Kevyn Major Howard

Matthew Modine

Peter Edmund

R. Lee Ermey

Vincent D'Onofrio

Directed by:

Stanley Kubrick

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 116 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States, United Kingdom

Full Metal Jacket is a type of ammunition and, more importantly, one of the best war films ever made. Legendary Director Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war movie is a darkly humorous, realistic and, at times, shockingly absurd account of a Marine Corps platoon during the Vietnam War. We follow this unlucky unit as they go through a hellish training regime at the mercy of Gunnery Sergaent Hartman (R. Lee Ermey – real-life ex-Marine war vet) before being shipped out to ‘Nam to face the enemy’s Tet Offensive.

R. Lee Ermey excels as the foul mouthed, downright abusive Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. His peppered rent-a-quote insults – the vast majority being unprintable here – provide a unique soundtrack for the boot camp section. Kubrick brilliantly shows the dehumanising effect of both Marine Corps training and war on a soldier as the rough treatment turns most of them into killing machines. The exception is Private Pyle (D’Onofrio), whom we see slipping down the slope of depression towards a shocking end as he fails to respond as well as the rest.

Everyone’s angle of the war is covered and we are provided with some memorable characters – the cowboy, the intellectual, the full-on grunt and the black soldiers. These men are not given back stories so as to strengthen their appearance as a uniform unit, but their individuality still stands out. Full Metal Jacket also provides us with some of screen history’s most iconic scenes that have such staying power in your memory, the opening US Army barbershop scene which turns the individuals into a standardised unit, the oft-quoted prostitute and the ridiculous Mickey Mouse marching song. Unforgettable scenes that are still nowhere near the best in the film.

Full Metal Jacket falls down in the concluding chapter as the platoon rush a sniper position. It descends into standard war-flick mediocrity as the characters lose a dimension and become ordinary grunts in an Us versus Them set piece battle. It also loses the interesting media element – humorous interviews with the soldiers and on-the-ground war reporting – that prevails in the second half of the movie. Unfortunately, this sees it just fall short of a classic war movie and it remains just a very good one. Out-standing!

It's Got: absurd realism, a subtle anti-war message, fantastic insults.

It Needs: To not peter out towards the end.

DVD Extras A digital Remastering of the film. DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Summary

Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant war film falls just short of a classic because of a lacklustre ending.

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