#260/ 365 – ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987) – 116 mins
IMDb Challenge #153 / 250 – Ranked #86 – DVD Collection
The journey of one Private “Joker” Davis (Matthew Modine), through the gruelling training regime to be a marine, fraught with its own psychological damage, to Vietnam itself. Here, as a war correspondent, he covers the Tet offensive.
If there is a one problem befalls a film, its sometimes they can peak so early with such defining moment, scene or compelling act that everything else that follows in the film – simply can’t compete with it. This is exactly the major flaw with Stanley Kubrick’s vision of the Vietnam war in Full Metal Jacket as its broken down into three separate segments, that the first act is so flawlessly executed that the other two acts don’t live up to fruition.
The reason being within this first act which is the most entertaining and stimulating, that for 45 minutes you can’t literally peel your eyes off R. Lee Ermey (a real-life former drill instructor) powerhouse shout-a-thon of a performance as the completely unforgettable Gurney Sergeant Hartman, as he bulldozers his new recruits, specifically Private Pyle’s, the slow, overweight kid who’s always lagging behind, using the threat of punishment and ridicule as motivation. The dialogue used is dehumanizing to the recruits but at the same time has great pacing and humor to it.
However, as the film then enters its second act and third acts where it decides to take itself to the Vietnam War. The problem is that once it’s there, the film has no idea what it wants to be about as Joker becomes an army journalist, and it all becomes a bit clumsy.
Within surreal and violent final section of the film where the squad are hunting a Viet Cong sniper, Kubrick does allow the film to come partially alive again.
Full Metal Jacket is one half of a great war movie with unique brilliance and the other half an average war movie. You only wish the whole of this movie could have been equal to that of its first part. If it had, then Full Metal Jacket could have been the equal to that of ‘Apocalypse Now’. When a fantastic visionary filmmaker like Stanley Kubrick undertakes a movie about the Vietnam war you want the overall result to be something really memorable and compelling and for the first 45 minutes, Full Metal Jacket ticks those boxes.