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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.67%
Worth A Look31.94%
Average: 27.08%
Pretty Bad: 12.5%
Total Crap: 11.81%

14 reviews, 60 user ratings

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by Collin Souter

"An anti War Movie, in the genre sense"
4 stars

I used to know someone stationed in Iraq. I would get her emails forwarded to me through another friend and they would always be these long, descriptive letters about her activities, the other people in her unit and various bombings and injuries that occurred miles away from her. Never once did she write about being in heavy combat. She and everyone else in her unit seemed to just be waiting for something to happen, almost stuck in what would normally be the first half of your average war movie. To the best of my knowledge, she never engaged in heavy combat. She just did what she could do to pass the time in the 100+-degree heat. Jarhead is about that same kind of experience.

It is not a movie about the horrors of war, but about the desire to be a part of it. It is not a war movie that has any kind of agenda regarding our current war, yet in a round-about way, it still makes a statement. It is not a war movie that tries to out-do the opening battle sequence of Saving Private Ryan, yet I still felt excited and moved by it. Jarhead is about the extras in the background of every war movie you’ve seen, the guys who don’t get to go into the thick of it and emerge heroic. It’s about the need to feel necessary and appreciated.

The movie centers on one particular soldier named Swoff (author Anthony Swofford’s nickname), played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Like many marines, he has a girlfriend back home who might—might—remain faithful. He meets other marines with backgrounds we’ve seen before in many war movies: One whose wife is pregnant, one skiddish-looking marine who could foil a plan at the drop of a hat and one whose wife has definitely cheated on him and moved on. Swoff gets partnered with Troy (Peter Sarsgaard) as a two-man sniper unit. They all take their orders from Sgt. Sykes (Jamie Foxx) and eventually get stationed in Kuwait, circa 1989.

Their training continues. The press shows up to interview the soldiers, who reluctantly admit their fears. They do what they can to pass the time while also holding parties around Christmas, watching movies, cleaning toilets and waiting patiently for a letter from home. Of course, they have been trained to become killers and defenders to the point where it has become as natural an instinct as eating and sleeping, but the inactivity begins to take its toll on them. They want to fight. They want to feel worth something.

Jarhead is an anti War Film, but not an anti-war film. It doesn’t waste your time telling you what you probably already know (war is hell). The movie’s one major battle sequence depicts not a series of blood and dirt flying into the camera, but a simple errand for one soldier to go and retrieve a battery pack so he can make a call. The movie mainly centers not on what harsh reality these men will venture into, but what they have left behind and what will be gone when they eventually return home.

Director Sam Mendes does a remarkable job of depicting the impatience these men feel, but also the frustration of not even having anything to separate this war from any other. At one point a helicopter flies over the platoon blaring out a Doors song, to which Swoff replies, “That’s a Vietnam song. Can’t we get our own damn music?” Mendes further underscores Swoff’s plight by making the desert look positively beautiful, prompting Sgt. Sykes to admit to Swoff that one of the main reasons he keeps working in the Marines is to see unusual sights, such as oil burning in the night sky.

Some have expressed disappointment at the amount of inactivity in the film. To me, it is something of a triumph for a film such as this to get made at a time when we have become conditioned to expect certain conventions of your average War Film. Jarhead expresses that no matter what you do with the time served in the Marines, no matter how little you see in terms of carnage and horror when stationed in a war-torn country, the experience remains a part of you.

They want the time to matter, they want a story to tell when they return and they want the experience to count for something because of the sacrifices they made in order to be a part of it. They sacrifice a piece of themselves in order to become trained killers and defenders, but what happens if they can’t get that part of themselves back? Being stationed out in the middle of nowhere with little excitement may not make for an exciting letter home to their friends and family, but it’s all they’ve got and could very well be all the better for it.

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originally posted: 11/07/05 15:20:14
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell good acting good production values dull as dishwater 2 stars
6/22/10 Aaron Two of my grandparents and my uncle were mariens, in every way this movie is total garbage 1 stars
12/19/09 Jeff Wilder Good not great. Pacing off. But characters well defined. 4 stars
7/08/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* A straight foward movie about how desert shield/storm really was. I wanted more sniping!!!! 4 stars
8/19/08 Shaun Wallner This ones ok. 3 stars
4/25/08 Karrie Millheim I thought it was a good story and the guys are hot 4 stars
4/22/08 mr.mike Did they think being a marine would be a picnic? 3 stars
8/06/07 Hello Stranger takes another view on war. and it works. a bit tedious though 4 stars
4/19/07 Stevo UK Good picture of the horrors of war, but it was supposed to be a movie. 3 stars
12/14/06 Phil M. Aficionado Really compelling as a "slice of life as war" portrayal; excellent production values, too 4 stars
11/05/06 A Concerned Citizen It's the one war film that describes the war in it's entirety, similar to Full Metal Jacket 5 stars
11/02/06 Patsyc Not as good as I thought it would be. It was interesting to see the life of a marine there 3 stars
10/25/06 Drew G Great movie, not sure what type of people the haters are... 5 stars
10/13/06 TJ Absolutely sucked. I saw it last night for the first time. A total waste.Don't bother! 1 stars
9/21/06 Chris Hately Great film. Oh, and Bill Hicks is the best comedian of our times. 4 stars
9/14/06 Mara Frost Good movie, Jake Gyllenhaal gives the best performance of his career 4 stars
9/12/06 matt pretty funny, good visuals 4 stars
5/28/06 daveyt story about tedium and pointlessness, told likewise. Jake was good though 3 stars
4/27/06 jana newton I loved this movie 5 stars
4/27/06 Indrid Cold I guess the Gulf War was boring and pointless, but so is the movie about it. 3 stars
4/25/06 Ken Muir Too much needless profanity. Vacuous content. 1 stars
4/24/06 Ry no story.... 2 stars
4/17/06 Jung Texican Decent documentary maybe, instead a film made hollow by its empty story 2 stars
3/24/06 mike waste of time, movie about garbage and marines being gay! not cool at all 1 stars
3/09/06 Wiseman Watch Saving Private ryan instead, I really regret I bought this movie. 1 stars
3/08/06 Katie Interesting look at the life of soldiers. 3 stars
2/06/06 gladys it was a waste of time..boring!! 1 stars
1/13/06 cooler mendes was always overrated and this proves it 1 stars
1/08/06 Bob Great performances, some fantastic imagery and a nice new take on war. 5 stars
12/11/05 J.K. Claire The best movie ever about war and mind. 5 stars
12/08/05 Sharon This movie was degrading to the military. My husband is a veteran and was appalled. 1 stars
12/05/05 B. McDaniel This film sucked - Don't bother 2 stars
11/30/05 M. Ritter, Marine Wife Marines sacrifice so much for us, what a slap in the face to Marines and their wives! 1 stars
11/29/05 Phlyer2 Discredits Brave Martines-Shameful! 1 stars
11/28/05 Elizabeth S Absolutely riveting, and Saarsgard should get a supporting nom. 5 stars
11/25/05 baseball-nut Not a bad movie....I'd suggest you wait and rent it at Blockbuster! 3 stars
11/24/05 Dustin Geist It was good half way through but after about half way the interesting just dropped. 1 stars
11/23/05 Jessica Holland I absolutely loved this movie, i think it is great for people to see!!!! 5 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Cooper and Foxx are fantastic. Sarsgaard great as usual. Screenplay blows. 4 stars
11/21/05 Brianna Schroeter I came out wondering what it was I missed. I'm not sure if I did. It's just too easy. 3 stars
11/18/05 Judy it's really good, just not for those people that only go to watch people get blown up. 4 stars
11/17/05 MrsVoorheesBabyBoy Slow and Bloody Boring 1 stars
11/14/05 Lanie Richardson it was different, but definitely worth a trip to the theater. 4 stars
11/13/05 Todd a very different kind of war movie, but well worth a look. 5 stars
11/12/05 "K" More Anti-American BS from the director of the highly anti-American "American Beauty" 1 stars
11/11/05 wes excellent view of what marine life is actually like... a little exaggerated at times 5 stars
11/10/05 Sean COMPLETE PILE OF CRAP 1 stars
11/09/05 Linden Groves not for friends of W 4 stars
11/08/05 Jeff Hella fucking good 5 stars
11/07/05 jcjs so so; ain't no DeerHunter, Apacolypse, Platoon, Born on 4th.pretty tame barely 'WorthALook 4 stars
11/07/05 bentable zzzzzzzzzzzzzz 2 stars
11/07/05 KingNeutron Disturbing and thought-provoking. 4 stars
11/07/05 Eric Weisman,M.D. I'm surprised this one played in our local theater, I loved it. 5 stars
11/07/05 Zigga This movie was tight man! don't watch it if your ONLY expecting a Blackhawk down paprt 2 5 stars
11/07/05 Naka Nope. 2 stars
11/06/05 othree Prob a good book someone made 2 movie, funny, kinda late gettin ready 4 war their never in 4 stars
11/06/05 Marine Family This movie was awful! It portrayed Marines as idiots who had no purpose nor conviction. 1 stars
11/06/05 jeff no plot, good acting, dont really c the point of this movie!! i recommend it 4 stars
11/05/05 John Gordon What a let down, clearly written by someone who hated the Marines, Great for anit war movem 1 stars
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  04-Nov-2005 (R)
  DVD: 07-Mar-2006

  13-Jan-2006 (15)


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