Outdated Movie Review: “Full Metal Jacket”

By Dalton Smith, Editor-in-Chief

This week I’ll be reviewing one of my all-time favorite movies: “Full Metal Jacket.”

The movie follows the main character Private Joker and his fellow Marine grunts during the Vietnam War as they go through boot camp, down periods, and combat. The film brings many laughs, but they don’t take away from the serious and dark themes of war.

This classic war movie was directed by Stanley Kubrick, my personal favorite director. Kubrick, in my opinion, is an absolute genius when it comes to directing. His movies made me look at movies as an art form, rather than just entertainment.

In “Full Metal Jacket,” Kubrick does an amazing job of creating beautiful shots that make the movie the masterpiece that it is. The music choices may seem strange to some, such as “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen, or Johnny Wright’s “Hello Vietnam.” I believe that the songs go perfectly with the movie.

The opening scene shows the faces of all the marine recruits getting their heads violently shaved. The pimple-faced recruits clearly show their youth, but they look miserable as their hair gets buzzed. The scene clearly displays the military stripping these boys of their innocence, and molding them into trained killers. I seem to think of their families and what they would think to see their beloved child getting treated so roughly.

After the opening, the movie is split into three distinct parts. The first part shows the recruits as they struggle through the extreme challenges of Marine boot camp, under the supervision of the brutal Gunnery Sergeant Hartman.

By far one of the most brilliant roles in cinematic history, R. Lee Ermey displays the unrelenting attitude of a Marine drill instructor as he plays Hartman. You can’t help but laugh at some of the hilariously vulgar insults constantly spewing from his mouth at the shaking recruits. Somehow Ermey verbally destroys and humiliates every recruit, but he expresses some feeling of respect and care for his men.

If you need any reason to watch this movie, whether you like war films or not, R. Lee Ermey will have you laughing on many occasions, providing a bit of comic relief for the dark undertones of the movie.

As the recruits work their way through boot camp, they grow close to each other and also learn to resent the slackers, particularly Private Leonard Lawrence or “Private Pyle,” as he becomes known.

Another great performance, Vincent D’Onofrio portrays Private Pyle’s empty-minded character perfectly. You share the hatred with the recruits toward Pyle for his incompetence, but D’Onofrio helps bring a likeability to the character and invokes sympathy from the viewer.

The different feelings that arise for each character helps play into the idea of the duality of man, which the main character, Private Joker brings up. Kubrick and the lead actors brilliantly lead on contrasting feelings and bring an internal struggle in the viewer.

After an extreme change of events at boot camp, Joker and his class reach graduation and become Marines. We transition into the second part of the movie, following Joker and his newly introduced squadmates.

They seem to be relaxing in Vietnam, questioning their part in the war. The viewers are introduced to Joker’s journalism unit, the people in charge of writing the Marine newspaper “Stars and Stripes.” These scenes shows the behind-the-scenes reporting of the Marines, telling slight lies to boost morale. Joker shows his clear resentment and looks for action, soon regretting when he gets it.

The third part of the movie begins after an attack on the Marine base, leaving Joker needed on the battlefront where he meets a new group and reunites with an old friend. Joker gets his first taste of real combat, although claiming himself to be “Born to Kill” before that. The war and action aspect of the movie picks up, shots begin firing, people die, etc.

Final Thoughts

Although “Full Metal Jacket” is considered a war movie, I consider the combat parts to be some of the least important scenes in the movie (especially considering the laughable special effects during shooting scenes). To fully appreciate “Full Metal Jacket,” you must go in looking for more than just blood and bullets. The movie changes everything the government portrays about the military, leaving even the most patriotic of people questioning if soldiers are as good of people as they seem.

The characters take many changes throughout the course of the film, and I believe Kubrick intended a few ‘rebirths’ along the way as well. You watch Private Joker progress from a young recruit claiming to be a killer, to becoming a soldier getting exactly what he wished for.

Kubrick’s shot selection and music choice, combined with amazing roles from R. Lee Ermey and Vincent D’Onofrio, make “Full Metal Jacket” one of the greatest movies of all time. I’ve come to this conclusion after watching many times and looking deeper and deeper each scene.

Who should watch: I recommend this film to any fan of movies, as long as you won’t be offended easily. The language is vulgar, but so is war. Get over it. I also recommend that you are looking for a movie to pay attention to, not just play for background noise. The movie will seem cheesy if you only look at it for violence and action.

Buy or rent? I strongly recommend buying the movie. As I mentioned before, the movie takes multiple run throughs to fully appreciate it, but that doesn’t mean you won’t love it the first time.
Score: 9/10
Overall, “Full Metal Jacket” is an amazing movie. The only thing keeping it from receiving a perfect score is that some of the actual combat scenes have unrealistic qualities. Although those scenes are relatively unimportant to the meaning of the movie, it would have been nice to see better effects.