The first thing I should mention is that anyone who is bothered by gruesome violence or obscene language should definitely not watch this movie. It is a graphic portrayal of war, in boot camp and actual combat. You witness what it takes for a man to break and become an actual bloodthirsty lunatic, unable to tell friend from foe. This is however a very good movie that I would suggest to anyone that can handle it.
When the movie first begins you are entertained with the scene of the newly recruited Marines having their heads shaved. This is soon over though, and you are taken into the barracks of the boot camp. This is where you first meet Sergeant Hartman, the men’s drill sergeant, and you are immediately shown the beginning of their training. He screams at and makes fun of the men, at one point forcing one man to get down on his knees, lean forward, and choke himself on his hand. This man comes to be known as Private Pyle, someone who unfortunately takes most of the abuse in the group. He is slow to learn and makes many mistakes as they are training, which puts him into several embarrassing situations with Sergeant Hartman. His only friend was Private Joker, the main character in this movie, until Joker himself turned on Pyle and helped the other men beat him at night with soap bars wrapped up in towels. This act of betrayal is the last straw for Pyle, forcing him over the edge and into insanity. He becomes fueled by his hate and anger for the others and uses his training to get an act of vengeance on Hartman during their last night in boot camp. When Joker walks in on Pyle sitting on a toilet loading his gun, Pyle tells him he is using bullets with a “full metal jacket”, meaning they were live ammunition. When Sergeant Hartman eventually runs in screaming about what was going on, Pyle shoots him and then sits down and shoots himself.
The next part of the movie skips ahead to Vietnam, where Joker meets up with a friend from boot camp. In this section of the movie, Kubrick exposes you to the tragedies of war. Joker is confronted with the moral dilemmas of the war, witnessing civilians being shot and listening to racial comments from the other men. Soon he is sent out with his friend on a mission that he is at first looking forward to, but he soon discovers what war is really like. As Joker goes farther on in the mission and more men are being killed, the unit he is with is attacked by a sniper. With one man down and alone on the field Joker’s friend, Private Cowboy, is unsure of what to do and taking heat from his men. Not knowing what was the right decision and after losing another man to the sniper he decides to take a small group of men and eliminate the sniper. Unfortunately he is soon shot and killed through an opening in the wall of a building, dying in Joker’s arms. This in turn causes Joker to go after the sniper with the remaining men, where he is nearly killed but saved by another man.
The movie then ends with Joker marching across a field during the night singing a Mickey Mouse song with the other men. as he begins to reflect on the lessons he had learned from Pyle’s suicide and his own experiences in war. Pyle had killed himself because he thought it better to be dead than to have to live in his world of hell. Knowing this Joker was happy to be alive for another day, even if it meant living in a world of hell.
This movie relies mostly on its shock value and dialogue to get its point across to the viewer. There are many unexpected scenes in the movie, both graphic and comical. As the movie goes on you begin to feel the depressing affects as you go through the training of a killer, both in the boot camp and in actual battle. You don’t realize that Hartman’s training wasn’t complete until the end when he kills the sniper, becoming a true soldier. For most of the movie Joker had been able to keep a notion of humanity, but in the end you are left to question whether his act on the sniper was mercy or murder.
Full Metal Jacket affected my feelings towards the people in our military service in quite a few ways. Everyone knows that war is bad but this movie allows a person to experience it through the eyes of a man who couldn’t hack it, and ended up going suicidal due to the harsh punishments of his drill instructor and peers. It then allows you to follow Joker into Vietnam, where he seems to be able to keep his humanity about him in the midst of such a hell. The conditions in the movie are impressive and educate you on what it takes to create a killer.
This is definitely a movie I would recommend for being on future lists. I believe it was picked due to its portrayal of an American soldier’s attitude during Vietnam and to educate us on what conditions were like for our men who were training to kill. Every character serves a purpose, interacting with others to tell a part of the story. There are those that share a small resentment for each other but are willing to risk their lives for that man. The parts are all played very well and serve some very convincing and memorable performances, especially the behaviors of Pyle and Hartman.
This movie is a big thumbs up for anyone that takes this class in the future. Unless blood or language turns a person off this would be a very good movie to watch. It is highly entertaining and provides quick lessons into the cruelty of war and the training of men to kill. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit and since I am already a fan of Stanley Kubrick it was an easy selection for me to make. This is a classic and should remain on the list for a long time.