Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Drama, War
Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, Vincent D'Onofrio, Adam Baldwin
A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.
Intense, tightly constructed, and darkly comic at times, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket may not boast the most original of themes, but it is exceedingly effective at communicating them.
  • Warner Bros. Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 26 Jun 1987 Released:
  • 29 Jun 1999 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Gustav Hasford, Stanley Kubrick Writer:
  • Stanley Kubrick Director:
  • N/A Website:

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Kubrick - yay! One of the best war-based movies ever5/10

I like Kubrick's stuff. Generally any movie he directed was several notches, in quality terms, above any other director (particularly those working nowdays). Does `Full Metal Jacket' continue to show the mastermind behind `2001', `The Shining' and `Dr. Strangelove'? Yup, it does.

As plots go. there isn't much here. I don't particularly care because the script makes up for it. `Full Metal Jacket' is very much a movie of two halves - the first half dealing with a group of conscripts in training at military camp and the hardships they endure under their `hard-as-nails' instructor. The second half is about their exploits in Vietnam itself. Fights? In 'Nam? Haven't we seen all that before? Yes, but rarely with such an experienced hand at work. And it's the camp scenes that are so wonderful.

Gustav Hasford et. Al. have produced an excellent script, particularly for the opening hour. There's barely a moment's pause before you're thrown into the screaming face of Sergeant Hartman. He's hurling abuse at his new recruits with lines so forceful and sharp they'll have you gasping in shock while simultaneously laughing in incredulity. It's the way the script runs in without a pause for breath that helps so wonderfully - and the fact that it's so powerful. It's never just about one-liners from a sergeant, it's also telling a story about how humans work under these conditions. The first half is about how they suffer under their own at home (and very well told it is too), the second half about the human condition under the duress of war. It's an interesting comparison, and a tale well told. The battle may lack some sort of overall context or resolution, but then I feel that's in keeping with the movie - it's about the individual, and not the war, and such elements cannot be easily quantified.

All the characters have a grounded `real world' feel to them, due to both the material and the versatility of the actors. R. Lee Emery is viciously delightful as the manic Sergeant Hartman, while managing to add occasional touches of humanity and a `this is for your own good' attitude through subtle gestures. Matthew Modine is the amiable lead, Private Joker, and as such balances the hard and soft edges admirably (if not spectacularly). The other stand out though is Vincent D'Onofrio as Private Gomer Pyle, the recruit picked upon by Hartman and the other cadets. There's a wonderful innocence about him in the beginning, which transforms into a frightening hardening of his soul later on. The evil/beyond-hope look he gives later on (anyone who has seen the movie will know the one I mean), remains as the most frightening look I've ever seen depicted onscreen. All in all the cast accredit themselves well here.

And so to the direction. It's Kubrick. It's good. Once more there's excellent cinematography - check out the haunting, almost claustrophobic landscapes of Vietnam. There's some lovely use of filters (that haunting blue). There's a brilliant subtle score, that's eerie when used, but never intrusive. There's a very good command of pace - the viewer is never left idle or bored, and the story (particularly in the tremendous first half) flows along smoothly. Great touches abound throughout - check out the many examples, such as the opening scene of Hartman marching right up to the recruits (and to the camera), spitting and screaming vindictive comments, almost as if at the viewer. Some may criticise the almost disconnected feeling you have in the battle scenes towards the end, but I found their stillness, their quietness, and raw power, far more effective than the flash-bang wizardry employed in tripe such as `We Were Heroes'. I can blather on about Kubrick for ages. so I'll stop now.

Is `Full Metal Jacket' perfect? Not quite because of the `two halves' syndrome. Although they do contrast and complement one another, the first half is very much the stronger half. The second feels weaker against it. In and of itself the second half would normally be regarded well, but it doesn't have the visceral power that the first does. I love both bits, but I
do love one bit more. This makes the movie suffer just a little. There's so much to like here though that I can't criticise too much - and so much to cherish (especially in the lines delved out). Once more the main man succeeds. Definetely worth seeing. 9/10.
"This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine."10/10

Legendary Stanley Kubrick - probably the most ingenious film-maker of our time - directed only two movies in the 80's. Someone could thoughtlessly claim that it was a very bad and a slow decade for him but on the contrary: the films happened to be "The Shining" (1980) - the darkest, the greatest and most frightening, superb and impressive horror movie ever made - and "Full Metal Jacket" (1987) the finest war movie in the history of motion picture. The fact that he directed the most beloved classics of two completely different genre is simply unbelievable.

First half of "Full Metal Jacket" is spectacular. Lee Ermey's Drill Instructor Hartman ("I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless") is probably the most hateful, forbidding and repulsive character in the history of Kubrick's movies. Jack Nicholson in "The Shining" was like a kitten compared to him. The fact that he is so overdone and the dialogue written to him is so sarcastic, biting and clever makes him also the funniest part of "Full Metal Jacket". Even though this is one of the most pressuring Kubrick movies first half can also be seen as an extremely dark comedy.

Rest of the cast is just as excellent. Matthew Modine in the leading role as Private Joker is simply fabulous but I guess most of the sympathies goes to Vincent D'Onofrio's unforgettable Private Pyle. Audience really feels sorry for him because he's the most regrettable victim of the training period that turns perfectly ordinary nice blokes into merciless killers. Actually I'm not sure if this is the greatest war movie ever made. I've always had my difficulties of choosing between "Full Metal Jacket" and Francis Ford Coppola's outstanding "Apocalypse. Now." Both of these films really shows what war is really about. War is never justified, war is never good. Therefore I think war movie should never glorify war but rather show it as what it really is: nightmarish hell. Second half of "Full Metal Jacket" does it. That makes it probably the most pacifistic war movie I've ever seen.

Interesting fact: at the end of "Full Metal Jacket" soldiers walk on the battlefield and sing an absurd and silly Mickey Mouse marching song. Childish and senseless marching songs of the first half were very comical. This one should be rather funny too but at this time the audience has already seen way too much. This kind of humor no longer amuses and makes you laugh. Song is the final crown of "Full Metal Jacket". It gives the last touch to all this irrationality and I'm positive that was also Kubrick's intention. I'm pretty sure that this is Stanley Kubrick's greatest movie right after excellent "A Clockwork Orange". Magnificent Masterpiece with a capital M. 10 out of 10.
Kubrick is genius.10/10

Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket seems like an uncompleted film, but to me that's poetic justice to one of America's uncompleted wars. The film is harsh and doesn't turn a blind eye to the atrocities of Vietnam. Kubrick is the true master of atmosphere in film. He makes you feel like you are there. Friends of mine have commented that they only like the first half of the film and that the second half falls apart. I believe Kubrick sets up the first half to be an understandable reflection of the terror that would eventually enter the lives of these soldiers during war. It is easy to identify with being picked on because we all have in some way. Not all of us, on the other hand, have fought in war. Kubrick is the master.
A Movie that you will always wonder about10/10
"Full Metal Jacket" is one of the legends of any service person in basic training. As a young recruit in the Army, we talked about it, and we talked about it further and it is one of those movies that you always find something new to say about. The beginning, the young men come to be trained as "killers." And it is at this point where you may realize later that not everyone is meant to be in the military, example, Leonard (Pyle.) He is a nice kid with probably a good sense of humor, probably liked among for his sense of humor and would have done better in college, but instead is in the Marine Corp where he does not fit in well. Then you have Hartman (excellent portrayal by Gunny Ermy) who has the heartless job of making killers out of these young men. It is here that you question if he is truly mean spirited or is doing what he knows he has to do by being as hard as he can so that these young men will survive the horrors of war. This is a point that I think is sometimes missed. Joker, a rather smart young man, attempts to take Leonard under his wing and the two become friends until Leonard messes up and is given a "blanket party" by the rest of the platoon. Hartman is the reason for this, but behind this hides another reason; he has to make them tough and solid so that they will work as a team and have each other's backs in combat. He knows this to be true, but no one else does. This sends Leonard into a psychotic break and for a while, Hartman begins to show interest in Leonard due to his progress. Joker, noticing the change in Leonard, does not bring this to anyone's attention and thus begins his journey through his own private war because he believes from his inaction, he may have been the cause for the aftermath of the confrontation of Leonard and Hartman and the eventual fate of Leonard.

After that, the movie shifts and they are in Vietnam and only then does Joker begin to see why Hartman was so mean as he sees his friends become more like Leonard and may be destined to share his fate. When the young sniper is shot is when a part of humanity returns to Joker and we are left to guess at what follows.

The performances by Ermy, Modine and D'Onofrio were remarkable, especially D'Onofrio. I often wonder what went on behind the scenes, especially with a seasoned Marine war vet such as R. Lee Ermy on the set. I often wonder how much he contributed to the movie as an actual adviser.

By the way, I am a Gulf War I Army Veteran and I am female, so it could be that I may be looking at this differently. Females usually were not in combat situations, but some were. I do wish the movie would have shown that a little, but as far as making you think, I think the movie did what it was suppose to do.
The best war film I have seen5/10
NO SPOILERS! This is a review, not a synopsis.

First of all I love Kubrick's work, so I came into this with a bias. However I have seen a lot of action and war films, and this one, to an individual who never went to war, seems the most true-to-life, taken as a whole. This IS how you have to look at this film, incidentally; trying to break it down into two or three parts and say which was better is missing the point of the film, I think.

In the same way that "Trainspotting" was an anti-drug film that did not gloss over anything, "Full Metal Jacket" is (for me) an anti-war film that stares straight at the ugliness of war and the potential for violence within almost all people, especially those trained, conditioned, even twisted, into military roles, without preaching even a single time. Less allegory and more applicability! Wonderful!

The camera work was superb. I felt like I was walking through the movie with the Marines, from the barracks to the battlefield scenes.

I have seen others criticize this film for the voice over, but I felt that it was used sparingly, and was helpful, not overdone. The narrator doesn't say anything that seems out-of-place.

Others have commented on the music, the acting, and so on, so I won't add my repetitive comments, except that the drill sergeant is perfect!

The combination of the demented treatment the recruits receive in boot camp with the combined "hours of boredom, seconds of terror" feel of the Vietnam scenes is intense and not for everyone, but feels REAL.

10 out of 10, perfect.