Jarhead4 stars

I really liked this film. All I knew about it was that Sam Mendes (director of one of my favorite movies – American Beauty) directed it, and it was about Marines in the first Gulf War. I was thinking, “Hmm, I bet Sam Mendes will make a good drama out of what should be a war movie.”

And that’s exactly what he did. Jarhead is as much about the Gulf War as Full Metal Jacket was about Vietnam. Simultaneously central to, and completely beside the point. The story is really about being a Marine, and being a Marine during the Gulf War.

The actors are all top-notch. Even Peter Sasgard, who I never credited much, turns in a great performance as the sulky but responsible squad member. Jake Gyllenhall is great, as usual (that kid’s been non-stop since Donnie Darko). And Jamie Foxx is great.

I guess what I liked most about Jarhead is that it was able to make you feel completely there, and to bring you into the lives of the characters, but at the same time it’s still manipulating you just enough so you can’t quite join the family. You see the way the family lives, but you just can’t quite picture yourself in it. And that’s the point.

While the bits in Iraq do drag a bit, it all goes to reinforce the main message: the deep frustration of being the ultimate human war machine in a world where wars are all fought by remote control. THere is a great feeling of frustrated impotence that explodes in the climax of the film at just the right level so that it remains anti-climactic. The whole movie is anti-climactic. And that’s the point.

Fantastic film. It’s only getting a 4 because it just wasn’t truly spectacular.

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