Blindspot: Full Metal Jacket

full metal jacket

It was actually a pretty good month for seeing films for the first time and there are at least three films I could have written about today.  I've decided to go with the film that is freshest in my mind, which is probably also the most acclaimed the three.  That film would be Stanley Kubrick's 1987 Vietnam-set war film  (FYI, the other two films were Total Recall and Candyman).

Full Metal Jacket is a film that is told in two segments that are for the most part independent of each other, other than the characters.  The first segment focuses on a squad of marine recruits being trained by loud-mouthed drill sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey).  The second segment fast-forwards to the Vietnam war itself and the experiences of the lead character Joker (Matthew Modine).

I will say up front that I absolutely loved the first segment of the film.  This segment features very little actual dialogue between character and is instead more of a series of vignettes of the marine recruit going through their vigorous training, while being verbally abused by Hartman.  The victim of the bulk of the abuse is Leonard ‘Gomer Pyle' Lawrence (Vincent D'Onofrio) – a man who is overweight and somewhat mentally challenged.  D'Onofrio gives as excellent performance as a man who is abused to the point of snapping.  The segment has a particularly dark ending and it's a shame that the film goes on for another hour after this point. I also have to applaud the excellent cinematography in this first section, especially the shots that uses a deep focus to show all the recruits in the room.

I have to say that I found it much harder to get into the second segment of the film.  This segment retains some of the dark humour of the first segment, but it no longer seems appropriate within the context of the war.  It's a somewhat disturbing segment in how many of the soldiers seem to be having  a bit too much fun killing off the Vietcong (especially disturbing is a scene of a guy shooting civilians from a helicopter).  I was somewhat surprised to see Adam Baldwin turn up in this segment and play essentially the same character he would later play on the TV series Firefly.

I didn't really get into the second segment until towards the end when the soldiers have a stand-off with a lone sniper.  It's probably the most tense and violent segment of the film and it also tests the morality of Joker, who has been trying to keep his hands clean throughout the entire segment.

Overall, I would say that I liked Full Metal Jacket.  I would have liked the film better if it was just the first segment, however I found that I eventually got into the second segment as well.

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.