August 18th, 2005


full metal jacket

Just saw. Good film. See it if you think the Vietnam War was a good idea. See it if you think the Vietnam War wasn't a good idea. See it if you really don't care.

There are definitely some anti-war overtones in there, which would offend some of you, but it's no wishy-washy hippie propaganda--the message is subtle and deliberately ambiguous. The soldiers of the film are not men of outstanding character or scared boys in helmets. They are human beings, and their experience is told with striking honesty. The protagonist, a soldier-journalist, wears both a peace-sign pin and a helmet with "Born to Kill" on it ("I like to think of it as commentary on the dual nature of man, in a Jungian sense," he claims). That pretty much sums up the movie's political stance. It may lean slightly more towards the anti-war side, but there are good reasons why modern U.S. soldiers love it so much. This movie is about them. Not War, not Heroes or Veterans or Freedom or Justice, but a bunch of dudes with guns.

My only complaint: Genuine profanity, fake blood. I know the movie was pretty violent for its time, which shocks me a bit--in real life we honor troops who get blown to bits, but show it in a movie and it's all oh no, censors, save our children's tender eyes from the horror! It's more than a little hypocritical how the movie is honest enough to have its Marines swear like Marines, yet has them trigger land mines and look like they stepped on a tomato. I guess Kubrick decided it was hard to have a tender death scene with the bigger half of a mutilated torso.

I am in favor of exposing kids to blood. Not brutality, perhaps not violence, but definitely blood. To hell with protecting innocent eyes. Kids need to learn early that blood is a natural part of death, or they never will (as is the case with many of the concerned mothers of America, who I am beginning to suspect never grew up). They were born in blood, and if they're less fortunate they'll die in blood. Show them a roadkill deer or something. Let them puke, get it out of their system. If they ever end up having to stuff their best friend's intestine back into his body while waiting for the paramedics to arrive, they'll thank you.

Interesting bit of trivia: R. Lee Ermey, the guy who plays the movie's infamous drill instructor, was an actual drill instructor in the mid-1960s, and went on to serve in Vietnam. Oddly enough, he was hired twenty-three years later to do the voice-overs for the mission briefings in one of my favorite computer games of all time, Fallout Tactics. I thought the game was merely parodying him, but no, it's actually him.
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