now here comes a blockbuster
taking on the gulf war, telling its story from the perspective of US marine swofford who's really been there. i don't know a thing about mr swofford as i haven't read his book, but the way jake gyllenhaal as swoff is being introduced makes it clear: he's the good one. he's not as dumb as the rest of his unit (reading albert camus on the toilet); he's good at heart (loves his girl but oh she treats him so bad); and, ah yes, he's the best sniper around as well, bound to kill, if only his superiors would let him.
even when jake's stationed in the desert, going slightly mad, he doesn't lose his beauty. while a voiceover tells us about the obstruse acts of occupational therapy the marines go through in order to fight the boredom of not having to kill somebody yet (well, you name it, it's not a very inventive list, every second point being masturbation), the camera holds still on jake's face who shines like little innocent jesus in the dark.
the dilemma of this movie: it's an interesting portray of explicitly unpolitical marine soldiers. it has failed to sort out it's own politics, though.
i wasn't a big fan of michal moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11"
, but it certainly transported unique knowledge about soldier/army psychology in the context of the real gulf war. that's not jarhead's objective at all. it is fast-paced storytelling (fast-paced in the sense of history: the war has been 15 years ago, hey let's make a movie!). it uses the gulf war as a wrap for an action buddy movie.
it's not even an anti-war movie. it's absolutely perplexing that the strongest anti-war moment of the film emerges from the scene where the soldiers, not knowing yet they'll go to war, are being screened a copy of "Apocalypse Now"
(the helicopter scene, in particular). the audience fiercely celebrates every comrad, every military aesthetic on screen. the soundtrack of francis ford coppola takes over (the only decidedly strong sound element in the movie, btw). at climax, the screening breaks off, and via loudspeakers, the soldiers are being sent to war. 'go on and get some, soldiers!' frenetic rejoicing.
the most critical Guardian
article on this movie... there are more positive ones, but the authors don't seem to be sure why to like it, so basically they tell back the whole movie to us... the Timeout