Saturday, November 05, 2005


Film: Jarhead (2005)
Dir: Sam Mendes
Tagline: Welcome to The Suck.
Rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars

Anyone who doesn't see the point of this movie or accuses it of politically "copping out" needs to go suck a fuck. Aside from being HIGHLY entertaining, brilliantly shot, and sporting more Oscar-worthy performances than all of last year's Academy nominees combined, Jarhead is also incredibly poignant, heartbreaking, and meaningful.

I'll start with the cinematography. Mendes is no stranger to stunning, beautiful shots, and this is no exception. Jarhead has some jaw-dropping shots unlike anything I've ever seen. I absolutely love when the soldiers are wandering in the desert, their faces lit only by the flames from burning oil rigs - gorgeous and heartwrenching at the same time.

The film's music is perfect. It ranges anywhere from Bobby McFerrin to Nirvana to Public Enemy. Quite ecclectic and quite effectively used.

The performances - arguably the best part of the movie. Jake Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard had better fucking get Oscars nominations because they are fantastic here. The latter especially steals the show, and I can't believe Sarsgaard has hovered under the radar as long as he has. This man is an incredible, underrated actor and I think he's finally on the verge of breaking out. Jamie Foxx is also especially good here (hopefully erasing the memory of Stealth).

Some critics argue the film doesn't take a political side when it should. That is cat crap. Allow me to sum it up with one line from the film: "Fuck politics. We're here now." It's not about who's right and who's wrong. This movie is about the individual soldier and the desperation of combat. The point is, politics don't matter when you're dodging grenades in some desert thousands of miles from home. For the film to take a political stand would completely contradict the central purpose of the story. This is a soldier's story - not the rhetoric of some journalist or politician. There are plenty of films that depict the horrors of war, but Jarhead presents the POV of soldiers so desperate to live up to expectations, and the inevitable disappointment of failure. Turns out there is little to no combat action at all, but I promise you won't be bored.

There is a fantastic scene where Troy (Sarsgaard) breaks down when a superior denies him a "shot" at the enemy. It's beautifully acted and really shows what the movie is all about. I cannot emphasize it enough: this is a soldier's story. It's not about the war, it's not about politics. It puts you inside the jarhead of a Jarhead, where desperation, paranoia, and ennui overwhelm.

My biggest complaint is a scene left unexplained at the very end (you'll know what I mean), but it is forgivable. The rest of the movie is beautifully constructed, and anyone who doesn't feel the message of this movie is, well, a jarhead.