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Running Time: 125 minutes
US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15
Country: Germany, United States
Jarhead is based on the real-life experiences of former Marine Anthony Swofford during operation Desert Shield – the preamble to The Gulf War in 1990. This adaptation focuses on the boredom and inactivity surrounding a group of Marines during 175 days in the desert of Saudi Arabia. Swoff (Gyllenhaal) and his partner Troy (Sarsgaard) encounter extreme heat, heated emotions, demotions, a mean Staff Sargent (Foxx) and a whole host of other unpleasant episodes on their way to just five days of action.
Those looking for action may well be disappointed as the trailers show everything that even resembles an explosion, piece of machinery, run, jump or raised voice. This is an exercise in misleading marketing and it’s uneccessary too as this is just a different kind of war film. Jarhead doesn’t even have a ‘War is Hell’ message to ram down our throats but instead it’s just one of ‘War is Purgatory’ as it relays the monotony of life behind the front lines. Mendes’s movie contains a surprising amount of humour and the excellent all-round acting and impressive characterisation gives us a nuanced spectrum of US army grunts to follow. Admirable as this film is for not trying too hard, the theme of nothing-doing is a little arduous to take over 125 minutes and you will want the end to come sooner than the overall quality of the film deserves.
Mendes also includes a set of unique, memorable scenes, great one-liners and dialogue, and cool soundtrack but the use of talking head video segments and a duel with a sniper seem recycled and lazy.
It's Got: Good performances and characterisation, an interesting take on monotony and boredom, the only Kanye West song I have ever come close to liking
It Needs: About 25 minutes cutting from it, for the trailer to be destroyed
DVD Extras The two disc Special Edition has a hell of a lot including commentaries by both the Director and the real Swoff, deleted scenes, four fantasy scenes to take you into the mind of Swoff, interviews done whilst researching the film, a behind the scenes documentary and a few featurettes on the context DVD Extras Rating: 9/10
An introspective and mature study of the monotony of war that’s the exact opposite of an all-action trailer that lied to too many people. It’s a different kind of war film that’s definitely worth a look.