Vital Signs

Full Force

Full Metal Jacket
directed by Stanley Kubrick
screenplay by Kubrick, Michael Herr, and Gustav Hasford
based on the novel The Short-Timers by Hasford; Warner Bros.

Funny, that a film about "Vietnam as it really was," as Platoon was touted, should fall so wide of any mark of merit, and that Vietnam films with a surreal twist—Apocalypse Now and Kubrick's latest. Full Metal Jacket—should be so much more interesting. If only Kubrick had stuck with the movie he started with, instead of switching gears entirely after the first third, we might have really had something here; another Kubrickian warped reality, to be sure, but nonetheless fascinating for that.

Full Metal Jacket traces the fate of a young man (dubbed Private Joker by his sergeant) from training at Parris Island, South Carolina, through the Tet offensive. Joker (Matthew Modine) is the central character of this movie, but only slowly and only after about a half hour's worth of film do we really begin to focus on him. Up to that point the screen is dominated by the coarse running commentary and orders from Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, played wonderfully by Lee Emery.

Hartman is molding a bunch of soft kids into killers. It's that plain and that simple, and all cards are on the barrel. He will use any tactic that works— intimidation, force,...

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