Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I was conflicted about what to expect in a modern day war movie based on a book. I didn’t want to get my expectations up and be let down. Most importantly I wanted to avoid a possible slap in the face by some Hollywood elitist trying to show me how evil our country and our military is, and that George Bush is Hitler. I get enough of that on CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, MTV, The West Wing, Commander in Chief… you get the point.
So I hesitated going to see the movie until I read Desult's positive review on it. After reading her take (and she knows her stuff), I went into the theater with an open mind and I walked out very satisfied. Jarhead was a good movie. It isn’t a war movie, it’s not a Michael Moore mind-meld flick, it’s a well directed translation of a book about one Marine’s personal experiences leading up to, and fighting in, Operation Desert Storm.
Every chance the director had to stereotype Marines as complete asshole killing machines he didn’t take. Yes, he showed the morons, but he also showed the normal guys, the war hawks, the detractors, the poor immigrant kids who joined to become citizens and raise families, the jerk Officers, and even a gung-ho lifer played by Jamie Fox. The movie showed every type of Marine there is. From the loose cannon to the desk jockey, it represented each one of them.
The focus on the psychological drudgery of waiting months to fight the enemy was ideally illustrated because it was 100% true. Typically the Marine Corps mindset of kill kill kill is squashed by the reality of wait wait wait. Moral issues such as wives and girlfriends cheating were the toughest battles they had to fight on a daily basis. Again though, there was some balance regarding the women back home. At one point the focus is on a wall of shame, filled with photos of spouses and girlfriends who have broken up or cheated on their Marines who are helpless to stop them. At the same time, the infamous reputation of infidelity Marines have is brought to light when a wife sends a tape of herself cheating on her Marine because he had cheated on her. The director could have simply left that part out and made the military wives look bad, but he once again chose to add balance to his film.
There were plenty of funny and memorable scenes. At one point when the Marines were dug in near the burning oil wells they could hear some helicopters flying overhead blasting music from ‘The Doors’ through their speakers. The main character’s complaint that The Doors were from the Vietnam era and that they needed their own music for this war was right on. Vietnam was over… Iraq was their generation’s war now and it deserved the right music. During the bonfire when they were celebrating the end of the war, Public Enemy’s Fight The Power was echoing throughout the desert. Indeed, the director had chosen appropriate music that reflected that generation. Young males from the Pac-Man/Generation X military venting their pent up frustration by shooting aimlessly into the air (the only time they got to shoot their weapons), and moshing to Chuck D lyrical rage.
I walked away from Jarhead content that I had not seen a war movie. Instead I watched a psychological journey through the mind of a young man who ‘got lost on his way to college.’
Good movie, great acting, and indeed very thought-provoking. Not the best in the genre, but I do hope it gets the recognition it deserves.
posted by El Capitan at 12:12 PM
I agree with your entire post.
And I can't say it enough that I'm so glad it wasn't like the book. Mendes, maybe took about 10% of Swaffy's attitude and displayed it in the movie. I was happy that it was only that.
I had a troubling experience at a local super market. I was wearing my MCAS MIRAMAR hat, so the young women checker asked me if I had seen "that new movie". I replied " Do you mean the one about Desert Storm?". She just gave me a blank stare. I had to explain to her what Desert Storm was in 91. She had no clue! Then I thought about it, that was 15 years ago, ancient history to todays teenagers.
(I'm not a Marine, I'm ex-Air Force, AMMO!)