Full Metal Jacket

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I have always thought Full Metal Jacket was misinterpreted by most critics. What are some different ways of looking at the film and interpreting its meaning?

Anthony (Anthony F), Saturday, 21 June 2003 16:20 (sixteen years ago) link

man is pathetic, fallen and basic (which is only funny if Peter Sellers is around). But don't worry, soon a giant black obelisk will show up and take care of everything.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Saturday, 21 June 2003 16:37 (sixteen years ago) link

Is there a strong underlying message to this film? Kubrick's work strikes me as eerily objective in it's dealings with human beings. (which some claim is poor character development - perhaps)

If there is a message in here, then it's strongly tied to Joker's desire to get himself into "the shit". Why would anyone want to do this? Especially when he has firsthand experience (as an army journalist) with people who've been in it, and are much worse off for it.

Certainly this is an anti-war film. The self-glorification of several main characters (ie, them all big-upping themselves for being so hardcore) is offset by either a) their untimely demise, or b) some really, really heavy emotional baggage. (And I'm thinking specifically of the North Vietnamese girl begging "Kill me," in one of the final scenes.)

Hrmm. This makes me want to watch the film again.

Andrew (enneff), Sunday, 22 June 2003 01:32 (sixteen years ago) link

I was obsessed with this film in high school (Apocalypse Now, too) but haven't watched it since I graduated. Suspect I am the only person on earth who prefers the second half to the first. It's still my favorite Kubrick film, after Lolita, and I think it avoids the pitfalls of some of his other work as well as those of most war films, but I'd have to see it again before I could get more specific.

Justyn Dillingham (Justyn Dillingham), Sunday, 22 June 2003 06:29 (sixteen years ago) link

Here's Jonathan Rosenbaum's short review:

"Stanley Kubrick shares with Orson Welles and Carl Dreyer the role of the Great Confounder--remaining supremely himself while frustrating every attempt to anticipate his next move or to categorize it once it registers. At once one of his most puzzling and most powerful films, this odd 1987 adaptation of Gustav Hasford's The Short-Timers, with script-writing assistance from Michael Herr as well as Hasford, has more to do with the general theme of colonization (of individuals and countries alike) than with the specifics of Vietnam or the Tet offensive. Using an unusual two-part structure--derived from the novel but in some ways resembling Kubrick's The Killing (a supposedly foolproof plan for group coordination slowly unravels before our eyes)--this picture probably has more raw compassion than any of his films since his first (the rarely seen war film Fear and Desire), but most of it is directed toward his characters rather than his audience, and a great deal of it has to do with the suppression by male soldiers of their female traits. From the opening scene of young marines getting their heads sheared to the chillingly beautiful and disturbing finale, Kubrick focuses on war's devastation, not only of a country and culture but of the American innocents enlisted to do this dirty work. Elliptical, full of subtle inner rhymes (for instance, the sound cues equating a psychopathic marine in the first part with a dying female sniper in the second), and profoundly moving, this is the most tightly crafted Kubrick film since Dr. Strangelove, as well as the most horrific; the first section alone accomplishes most of what The Shining failed to do."

Justyn Dillingham (Justyn Dillingham), Sunday, 22 June 2003 06:29 (sixteen years ago) link

This is something interesting worth checking out:


Anthony (Anthony F), Sunday, 22 June 2003 14:20 (sixteen years ago) link

I remember not liking it that much. the training stuff is good, but the Vietnam bits didn't look like they had been filmed in Vietnam (which they hadn't). the ruined city didn't look like somewhere that had been smashed up in a few weeks of savage fighting, but some place which had been abandoned for years by shifty developers (which it had).

But then I didn't like 2001 on a first viewing, so we'll see.

DV (dirtyvicar), Sunday, 22 June 2003 18:46 (sixteen years ago) link

The first part is, of course, largely about the dehumanizing aspect of the military. The second part is a little more problematic in terms of sussing out what Kubrick meant to impart, or at least it is for me. I am always struck by how almost all the dialogue among the soldiers (with the exception of Joker and Pyle) is sarcastic, ironic--it's especially noticeable once the action shifts to Vietnam. In some ways, this makes the whole thing play like a big sardonic joke, and I'm still undecided on whether that that helps its impact or hurts it. If Kubrick meant to show that such humor was being used by the men as an insulator, I'm not sure it was entirely successful. Certainly the soldiers never really crack. Although maybe that's the point--the process illustrated in the film's first section worked.

I'm also struck every time I see it by the way Kubrick uses increasingly silly, even pre-verbal rock tunes on the soundtrack ("Woolly Bully," "Surfin' Bird"), as if to underline the jabbering insanity of war.

Lee G (Lee G), Monday, 23 June 2003 16:20 (sixteen years ago) link

four months pass...
Revive, due to the Mystic River thread on ILE, and the Saving Private Ryan thread.

Is part of the reason Kubrick was treated coolly my some (many) critics because of his refusal to take a clear moral stance at times, especially with FMJ?

I'm thinking of Rosenbaum's criticism of Mystic River which (wrongheadedly IMO) concentrates on the morality of revenge/Eastwood's vision, and in the way SPR articulates, at different times, a clear moral message (war is awful, but ultimately a fine patriotic sacrifice, etc.)

miloauckerman (miloauckerman), Thursday, 6 November 2003 07:48 (fifteen years ago) link

nine years pass...


乒乓, Sunday, 3 February 2013 20:07 (six years ago) link

five years pass...

RIP R. Lee Ermey

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Sunday, 15 April 2018 23:40 (one year ago) link

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