Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a review of Sam Mendes' JARHEAD, one of my most anticipated flicks left in 2005. No long drawn out intro. I want to see this flick, that is all. Beware of a pretty in-depth synopsis of the plot!
Hey AICN gang. Kreegal here with another review for ya. I saw this last night at the Arclight in Hollywood. Thought I'd pass it on.
So there's a little movie coming out in November called "Jarhead", directed by Sam Mendes, the guy that brought us Mena Suvari's boobs and a hot make-out session between the guy from Matewan and the new Lex Luthor, as well as allowing "America's Favorite Actor" kill a bunch of people with a tommy-gun in the rain. So yeah, it's time for a new movie from this guy.
Perhaps I haven't been to a lot of press screenings, but this one, at the Arclight in Hollywood last night, was a clusterfuck from the beginning. They handed out too many tickets to begin with, and then had to sort people out for the press, and then when, as usual, certain members of this elite squad of press didn't show, they started filling the audience up with the people that they had briefly turned away. Having said all of this, there was no introduction to the film, and it started late. Good work by all.
Now I haven't read the book on which this is based, but I've been told that Mendes chopped the original draft of the film down to "just the war parts". I'm sort of glad he did, because it would've added ANOTHER hour to the film instead of the 2+ it already had.
I'm sure that Swofford's book is a grand exploration of his life before, during and after being in the desert, along with commentary on how war changes you and the people you love. But maybe not. Either way, this film starts you off with Jake Gyllenhaal, as Swofford, already in fatigues, ready to go. We blow through boot camp and Swofford taking liquid laxative to give the impression of stomach flu, and finally Jamie Foxx confronting him on the shitter and requesting that he become a sniper.
Swofford pseudo-makes friends with people in his company, including Peter Sarsgaard (the loner/leader), Lucas Black (the politico), Evan Jones (the crazy) and Brian Geraghty (the nerd). I mention these four because they are the only four worth paying any attention to. Peter Sarsgaard is great in this film, and I'm glad that he's finally getting good roles. That, I can say with confidence.
They train for awhile and life is tough, and then they are shipped to the desert, where they get to fight Iraqis. They're the Marines. First to fight. Semper Fi. They are excited about killing and "Apocalypse Now".
What they didn't expect was to sit around in the desert for the better part of a year with equipment that doesn't really work, a bunch of sand in their underpants and nothing to do.
It's hot, there's nothing to kill, most of their significant others are cheating on them or leaving them, Lucas Black thinks they are there for the wrong reasons and Evan Jones is out of his fucking mind, killing camels and collecting dead bodies.
This film is all about waiting for something to happen, and then when it does, it's over so quickly that if you blink, you miss it. Mendes sets this whole idea up really well. At one point, Sarsgaard even tells you it's going to happen that way.
Once the war actually starts, there are genuine moments of suspense, and dare I say it, "drama". Unfortunately, there are characters that I care more about than Swofford. I want to know why President Palmer… err… Dennis Haysbert gets to parade through two scenes and we don't know what he's doing. He's funny and he gets to swear, but I would rather follow him around than some of our regulars. Not to mention Sarsgaard, who did "something bad" and we're left to wonder what it was and how he ends up the way he ends up at the close of the film.
This film IS a commentary on war and the military, however. It shows how blood-thirsty we are to go to war, and how bored we are once we get there. It plays a lot to the "I don't want to be here" and "This is the only place I want to be" ideas that different people have. It shows that no matter how shitty your home life is, once you get back, it's still going to be shitty. Sometimes, it's even going to be worse.
It makes you uncomfortable to watch how excited these guys are about fighting, and at the same time makes you almost feel sorry for them that they don't really get to. It's the first movie I've been to in a while where I didn't feel fulfilled to some extent after it was over, but I was OK with feeling that way. It's almost as if that feeling is how the characters felt after the war. They had had an experience, something that would stay with them, but it's not certain if it was a good experience or a bad one.
I like the movie. It's more "Full Metal Jacket" than it has any right to be, but Mendes drives a hard bargain between well-rounded characters and events that shape those characters. This is no "war movie" in the action sense. It's a "war movie" in the psyche sense. Everything is cerebral, just like Mendes likes it, along with great early 90's music and beautiful, if horrifying, visuals of maddening war-torn landscapes.
It's also the best use of Nirvana's "Something's In The Way", possibly ever, even by Nirvana.
This isn't a movie for the "let's go have a fun time at the talkies" crowd. It could also boor people to tears, but I think it's worth seeing, and will certainly create A LOT of discussion about war, people and how we, as Americans, see ourselves.
Check it out when you can. You won't be the same. Welcome to the suck.