I am in no way, shape or form a Stanley Kubrick fan. I didn’t arrive at this destination lightly; after watching his big three movies, “Dr. Strangelove,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “2001,” all of which I found dreadfully boring, I decided that this was not the director for me.
However, last year saw the unthinkable, a Kubrick film I kind of liked, “Lolita.” After seeing it, I even told myself that I would totally watch it again, if it was on. Imagine my surprise when, after watching “Full Metal Jacket,” I find another of his movies that I would both totally re-watch AND would even consider buying.
Anyway, “Full Metal Jacket” is another Vietnam picture, which I like to watch, even if I don’t always think they’re great films (looking at you “Deer Hunter”). Here, we have a saga in two parts; the first part takes place at a basic training camp for Marines, and part two follows one of the Marines, Joker (Matthew Modine), through his stint as a combat journalist in Vietnam.
Like the other Vietnam movie I adore (“Apocalypse Now” if you’re curious), “Full Metal Jacket” is a war movie that is entirely about the now. The focus is more on a day in the life of the soldiers than a bigger picture, or a bigger message or anything that exists outside of the fight. Yes, the bigger, anti-war message is there, everywhere in fact, but it’s not the soldiers’ concern, which makes the message all the more necessary.
“Ain’t war hell?” one soldier asks, but it’s not a question. Basic training taught them to be conquerors and killers, and buried in the shit, that’s all that matters.
The ending sequence is one haunting piece of filmmaking, even more then his brilliant M.A.D. ending to “Dr. Strangelove.” The soldiers have won the day, another square of land is theirs to keep. As they walk through the battlefield, they merrily sing the theme song to “The Mickey Mouse Club.” They are proud conquerors, they are fierce killers, they have won a country of ashes and they have nothing left to fear.
“Full Metal Jacket” (1987)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Stanley Kubrick, Michael Herr and Gustav Hasford
Starring: Matthew Modine (Joker)
Adam Baldwin (Animal Mother)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Pvt. Pyle)