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Movie review: “Jarhead”

Rating: R

Grade: A-

From what I’ve heard: “War is Hell.” We’ve seen it in so many films, why, then, go see “Jarhead?” What makes this film stand out? Well, besides having Jake Gyllenhaal half naked throughout most of it, the film doesn’t show how destructive war is but how war, or the lack of, destroys the minds of those involved.

Slang for Marines, “Jarhead” exposes the psyche of the first troops sent over in the Gulf War. Gyllenhaal’s character, Swofford, trained in the States to be a sniper for the Marines. All he wants to do is use his training and fire his gun and hopefully kill an actual person. But what happens when he and his fellow Marines are the first to go over to the Gulf War but don’t get to shoot anything as soon as they would have liked?

This film took a different approach to a war flick in many ways. One way being that the training sequences weren’t about what the men had to go through physically to be Marines; instead the training shows how each man is broken down and if possible rebuilt into a killing machine, of sorts.

It was fascinating to see how the Marines train their men to withstand the pressure of almost anything: Being put under fire, being yelled at constantly, being drilled to be the best and nothing less. Even if “Jarhead” is only a film, I still have great respect for those who intentionally put themselves through such brutality.

What was surprising was how the film only had one fight sequence, if really even that. The only scenes that remotely showed any fighting really showed Swofford just standing up in the middle of the shooting and not the action going on around him.

Part of you as the audience believes that he wants to get shot and just sent home away from all the insanity while the other part believes that he is insane. Why would anyone willing go into such violent situations and not at least try to protect themselves from what was going on around them? This is another point to what war can do to a person.

It is quite a predicament for the first Marines sent over to war. Swofford and the rest of his troop are given a great deal of training to be snipers and all they want to do and use it. But what happens when they can’t? How does it really affect them to be drilled full of shooting techniques that they may never use?

That’s what makes this film so gosh darn interesting. The film is about Swofford’s experience as a Marine, not the war. It’s about the madness of the wait of war that drives these Marines half crazy, not the actual fighting.

“Jarhead” does not get into the politics behind the war so as to not overshadow the purpose of the film with bias, unnecessary information. Some may see the film as just uncertain waiting, which is what they should see. This is such a great angle to a war film. How many directors have shown how waiting for war can do just as much damage as actually being in it?

I highly encourage everyone to see this is a new breed of “action-less” war flicks. Gyllenhaal’s performance as a Marine losing his mind among those who seem to have already lost theirs is outstanding. Finally, he’s in a film where he doesn’t try to seduce an older woman. Jamie Foxx also stars and shows off his acting ability with his display of diversity.

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