Hello and welcome back to my look at the work of Stanley Kubrick. Previously I have looked at Spartacus and The Shining, if you would like to check those out, then click on the link below.
Today I am looking at the war film, Full Metal Jacket, 1987. Directed, co-written and produced by Kubrick, this film gives an honest portrayal of the Vietnam War and its effects on the soldiers who fought there. The film is based on the novel, The Short-Timers 1979 by Gustav Hasford. Kubrick tells the tale of Private Davis (Joker) Matthew Modine as he survives the rigours of basic training, leading him to graduate into the Marine Corps as a Journalist. In Vietnam, Joker finds himself covering the war and eventually participating in the Battle of Hué.
Its only over the last year I have really started to learn about Stanley Kubrick, I knew that he directed The Shining and 2001, A Space Odyssey. Full Metal Jacket, on the other hand, is a film I feel I have known about most of my life and didn’t have a clue it was Kubrick who directed it! More importantly, it’s a film that I have always held in high regard and was happy to find this information out. I have memory’s as a child about discussing this film with other people, the scene people really spoke about with great passion is the one including Private Lawrence, Vincent D’Onofrio as he shoots Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, R. Lee Ermey and then himself. This is such a wonderful piece of filmmaking by Kubrick and to create something that stands out so drastically, powerful and shocking is a great testament to his craft.
I have mentioned this before and I will mention it again here. Stanley Kubrick is described as a genius and rightly so, I have read about his IQ and noticed his fans also share that gift, but? I feel Stanley’s real genius is the way he can reach people’s emotions in such a simple way. I’m not talking about his knowledge of directing but how he can reach people from all walks of life, he reached me. Maybe I should say, he just knows what makes people tick, it really is outstanding.
Well, I guess the real question is what is Kubrick telling me in this film and how? As an adult, this film has changed dramatically for me since I first watched it, all those years ago. Now, in my 40s I can do nothing but gasp at just how young these soldiers actually were, they are basically high school kids, or at least it looks that way to me. I love how we are introduced to each character, and every one of them has their own unique identity. Joker is the main character with the strongest personality throughout the film, and the main scene that made realise that these men still hadn’t given themselves up to the army is when Joker is confronted by Animal Mother, Adam Baldwin. This is adolescent mentality at its finest, as you have the jock and the cocky nerd battling against each other and if you take away their guns and location, this could be a coming of age drama.
I suppose this is a coming of age drama, only these people will never have the chance to live the life they want. I felt the way the recruits were singing marching songs at the training camp and at the end of the battlefield helped show how these young men had become, no longer individuals but a unit that works together to kill the enemy. The whole film is about the process of stripping awake their individuality and creating a soldier. It really makes me think just how terrible war is. Again, going back to my point earlier, I’m no political expert and never faced anything like this in my life, but this film makes me think about the characters in the film, nothing more and nothing less. There are lots of significant moments in this film that concern changes in the war and what was actually happening at that time, but I’m all about the characters and how we all share our time on this planet together. Stanley Kubrick shows me that so brilliantly.
So, what do I take away from Full Metal Jacket? Well, I really appreciate the freedom I have in my life a whole lot more. I’ve learnt that Stanley Kubrick has managed to pull the wool over my eyes yet again, watching this film, I thought there was no way this was filmed in England and it was, what an incredible achievement. I really want to read the novel the film was based on, but look at the price of those books! I thought the music in the film was amazing and also took me out of my comfort zone, which added depth to the story. It has also made me realise I have a real interest in the history of America, I just can’t get enough of it, Ken Burn’s Documentary, The Vietnam War is worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. There is nothing else to but say, this is a masterpiece and one I’m glad I went back and visited.
So what should I watch next? Well, I’m going to go and watch a film I know absolutely nothing about. Dr Strangelove a 1964 political satire black comedy film that satirizes the Cold War fears of a nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Thank you for reading, what did you think about Full Metal Jacket? Please let me know in the comments below.