FULL METAL JACKET, Stanley Kubrick 1987


Just before watching Apocalypse Now we decided to review Full Metal Jacket, another classic in war movies I’ve seen many times. Somebody told me it’s outdated and has lost all the effectiveness with the passing of time, I don’t agree, in fact I still enjoy watching it, although I must reckon the more I watch it, the longer it seems to me.


As usual, Stanley Kubrick’s point of view is very subjective and he creates his own world and his own Vietnam conflict as to reflect what he seems to think about it. You can agree with that, or find everything twisted and exaggerated, but I like it and it’s worth seeing it.


The story is clearly divided into two parts, the training and the combat, all narrated through the eyes of Private Joker (Matthew Modine), a know-it-all guy who, compared to the rest of the company, seems the most intelligent one with something to tell.


Recruits arrive to the Marine Corps training camp to be trained and even humiliated   by brutal Gunnery Sargeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey). After process of blending the human beings into soldiers, and losing any kind of identity, the only way to distinguish one from another is by the nicknames put by Hartman, thus there are Cowboy, Joker and the black sheep and object of all mistreatments, Private Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio).


Here's my riffle, here's my gun...

Here's my riffle, here's my gun...


This guy is overweighed and quite slow and dumb, likely a borderline retarded, almost a vegetable which does not feel nor think much, just to be commanded and obey. As the law of the strength and masculinity rules, he immediately becomes the centre of Hartman’s mocks and because of his lack of agility and his stupidity, his superior decides to punish the rest of the company for all his mistakes or faults, thus, he becomes the most hated private not only by the sergeant but also by his colleagues, who at some point, decide to take revenge. By the time the training finishes, Pyle has suffered a complete transformation being a perfect killing machine but totally insane in the brain, celebrating his graduation with a terrible and impressive ending.

Once training has been completed, soldiers are directly sent to Vietnam. At this time, Joker has become war correspondent with Stars and Stripes and does not share his initial idea of becoming a Marine for killing. Due to some disagreement with his superior’s ideas of covering news and events he’s sent to the hot area of Phu Bai, for writing a paper where he will live the actual cruelty  of war in first person. 

As a two-segment movie, I personally prefer the first part, on which more psychological aspect is depicted. Second part rhythm is too slow although oppresive atmosphere is very well created and the end is powerful. 

Camera work is outstanding, I really enjoy with the barrack scenes, the lighting is very cool at night, don’t know how to explain but find this part absolutely appealing. I definitely must enlighten myself by reading something about techniques. 

Regarding performances, Vicent d’Onofrio and R. Lee Ermey are positively the best, and portrait their characters providing them of clear personalities, essential for the conclusion of the first part. 

Is the American Army objectively depicted? We’ve seen hundreds of militar harrassment stories in movies, and even in real life, we sometimes hear things, not only internal scandals but tortures inflicted to prisoners. it’s something to think about, really. 

Anyway, Full Metal Jacket is a must see, a war movie but also a reflection on real life, one of these stories wchich, once finished, can encourage you to deep thoughts.

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