- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
irector Sam Mendes’ latest film, “Jarhead,” is sure to cause some controversy amongst fans of war movies. This is because the film is a different kind of war movie – devoid of any actual war or politics. That’s hardly something to be disappointed about, though, since the war that “Jarhead” depicts was a different kind of war. The chance of any serious political discussion is quickly put to rest shortly after the U.S. troops land in Iraq (“Fuck politics. All that matters is that we’re here now. Everything else is bullshit.”), but who are we kidding? Just by not being political, it is, and you can hear the anti-war statement loud and clear throughout the course of the film’s candid look at the average soldier’s time in Desert Storm.
Based on the best-selling memoirs of the film’s protagonist, Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal), “Jarhead” (military slang for Marine) tells the true account of Swofford’s time spent in the Corps, from his first day in boot camp to his last day in Iraq. Along the way, Swofford is encouraged by Marine lifer Staff Sargeant Siek (Jamie Foxx) to join the STA, an elite sniper unit where he’s teamed up with Troy (Peter Sarsgaard), a fairly level-headed Marine who greets his new partner an appopriate introduction: “Welcome to the Suck.” News of Iraq’s sudden takeover of Kuwait reaches the military base within the day, and the taste of war lingers on the tips of their tongues.
While they sit and wait for their call to arms, the troops are pumped up with midday screenings of “Apocalypse Now,” and before they know it, Swofford’s platoon is shipped out to Iraq where they will seemingly aid in the takedown of Saddam Hussein. After sitting around for nearly six months doing nothing short of playing football, sleeping, and masturbating, the boys are finally given orders to make their way to the front line. The only problem is, the initial air attack on Iraq forces was so efficient that most soldiers didn’t even get to fire their gun once, including Swofford, to the point where everyone was asking “Are we ever going to get kill anyone?”
“Jarhead” is easily one of the best films of the year, with a strong adaptation by William Broyles Jr. and another award-worthy effort by director Sam Mendes. Gyllenhaal and Sarsgaard once again prove that they're two of the most promising young actors in the business, while Foxx turns in a satisfying supporting role as their good-humored commander. Also making short but amusing cameos are Chris Cooper and Dennis Haysbert as high-ranking military officers, as well as John Krasinski as a Dartmouth literary graduate relegated to typing the General’s dirty love letters to his wife. You’d find yourself hard-pressed complimenting any of these men without mentioning the real life Anthony Swofford, whose wry account of the Desert Storm debacle has seamlessly transitioned to the big screen. Many expected "Jarhead" to be this generation's “Platoon,” but it's not; it’s actually better.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
The two-disc release of “Jarhead” was one of the best DVDs of 2005. Along with two audio commentaries featuring director Sam Mendes, writer William Broyles, Jr., and author Anthony Swofford, the collector’s edition also included several deleted scenes, two production featurettes (“Jarhead Diaries” and “Background”), and the documentary, “Semper Fi: After the Corps.” Sadly, only the aforementioned audio commentaries actually made the cut, and while they’re both excellent supplements to the film, it’s disappointing that Universal didn’t include the other extras as well.