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Full Metal Jacket: The Action and the Portrayal of War

Thousand-Yard Stare

Full Metal Jacket takes place in Parris Island,South Carolina and in Vietnam. The main characters are : Joker, a military journalist that goes to war in vietnam to interview soldier; Cowboy, a sergeant in a squad that has to take over when his leader dies; Pyle, an overweight soldier that has a mental breakdown in the camp where Joker and Cowboy went to. The movie begins with Sergeant Hartman, the drill instructor yelling at the soldiers on their first day of bootcamp. It then goes on to follow Pyle, as he struggles to keep up with the rest of the battalion. Pyle causes his battalion to get punished since he got caught eating a donut. Hartman says it is the other soldier’s fault for not helping Pyle. Joker gets paired up with Pyle so he can personally help him. One night, Pyle gets beat up by the whole battalion with soap in pillowcases. Pyle then begins to act strange and Joker notices him talk to his rifle. On graduation day, Joker gets assigned military journalist while Cowboy and Pyle gets assigned to infantry. That night, Joker finds Pyle loading his rifle. Hartman gets woken up and comes in to tell Pyle to stand down. Pyle shoots himself and Hartman. The movie then fast forwards 1 year later where Joker is now a corporal and now works for the stars and stripes. The NVA attacks the base Joker is staying at leading to his journalism staff sending him and a photographer named Rafterman to a vietnamese city to cover a battle. They meet Cowboy once again and his squad. Joker interviews the soldiers as they go into battle. While they are moving, their squad leader dies, putting Cowboy in command. Another soldier dies from a booby trap causing other soldiers wanting to help him. However, Cowboy wants to be defensive and calls tank support instead. Mother, a heavy weapons soldier, disobeys cowboy and moves in anyways. Cowboys finds out that they can’t get support so he decides to move in as well. They find out there is only one sniper so they hide in cover to make a plan. As Cowboy is talking through comms, he is sniped through a hole in the wall. The soldier try to help him but they are unable to, Cowboy then dies. Mother tells the squad that they must avenge Cowboy and hunt the sniper. Joker moves into the building and finds the sniper which is a teenage girl. Joker’s rifle jams but alerts the rest of his squad. Rafterman comes in to back him up and shoots her, fatally wounding her. The sniper is still alive begging for death, Joker doesn’t want to just leave her there. Joker is then forced to shoot her, the rest of the soldiers congratulate him as joker stares off with the “thousand-yard-stare”. The marines march off chanting as the building are on fire behind them. The movies end with Joker saying that he is glad to be alive and is no longer afraid.

The actors of Full Metal Jacket did a perfect job in representing their roles. One performance that I enjoyed was Vincent D’Onofrio as Gomer Pyle. I thought not only his acting was great but his dedication in his role was as well. Vincent had to gain weight in order to perform his role which is amazing. Vincent’s role was vital in showing that even boot camp can be brutal to a person’s mind. Vincent did a great job in portraying this, a scene that showed this was the scene where he was loading his rifle and shot himself and Hartman. You could see the emotion in Vincent’s face in this scene and his delivery of his lines was perfect and set the “dark mood” appropriately. Another performance I enjoyed was R. Lee Ermey as Sergeant Hartman. Ermey’s role was vital as well since his role was the drill instructor, the most important part of the boot camp. Knowing that Ermey was a real life drill instructor helped attribute to his perfect fit for the role. Also, one thing that amazed me was the he actually ad libbed most of his lines which was amazing. Ermey’s performance also helped add comedy to the movie which was also fun to watch. One scene that stood out to me was when Hartman is first introduced and is yelling and insulting all of the soldiers at the start of the movie.

The number one thing I enjoyed in Full Metal Jacket was the fact of how the movie showed the realities of real life war. A Lot of people think war isn’t as intense as it seems, some even compare war to video games. However, Full Metal Jacket helps disprove that with its intense scenes and violent nature. Stanley Kubrick, the director even states that his intention was to show the realities of war which I thought he showed spot on. Of course, I haven’t seen war in real life but this movie helped me see how it would seem like. Scenes like when the soldier die from the booby traps and when the base gets bombed from the NVA helps emphasize the violence of war. Another thing I enjoyed was the special effects of the movie. Knowing that this movie was made in the 1980s, I was amazed by the special effects for its time. One scene that helped demonstrate this was the scene where Pyle shot himself and Hartman, I thought the scene was gruesome and descriptive, one thing that stood out to me was how the blood splattered on the wall when Pyle shot himself.

One lesson I can learn after watching Full Metal Jacket is that war is very serious and the soldiers that go through it are very brave to serve their country. The violent and dramatic scenes in the movie definitely helped me see the reality of war, showing the hardships the soldiers have to go through. The beginning of the movie even showed that soldiers had to go through hardships at bootcamp. This movie helped me appreciate the soldier and everyone that is involved in going to war and serving our country.

I would recommend Full Metal Jacket to anyone that is interested in Action War Movies however I would also recommend everyone to see this as it reveals the realities of war. The MPAA of this movie is R which is appropriate since there are very gruesome scenes and several use of bad language. My final word of this film is that it was a solid action war movie with hints of comedy at the start of the movie and delivers to show the realities and violence of war.

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