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JARHEAD by Sam Mendes

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Anthony “Swoff” Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) has signed up with the Marines, and after a “Full Metal Jacket”-like training he is shipped to Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Shield in the first Iraq War. The “jarheads” (slang for Marines) are motivated after their training – they want action, and they want to kill enemies. But what awaits them is waiting, training, waiting, cleaning their guns, waiting again. They kill time with macho-games, macho-talk and macho-jokes, they miss their wifes or girlfriends and are afraid if they will be still there when they return home.
Whoever has served in an army knows what it feels like – waiting, training, abuse, laughing about the lame macho-jokes of your chief, more waiting.
The marines are not allowed to express their frustration and boredom when reporters visit the camp – their sergeant tells them the lines they are allowed to say, and bluntly tells them they lost their right of free speech when signing the contract.
Finally, Desert Shield becomes Desert Storm, and the platoon advances forward – eager to make their first kills – but they never get near the enemy – and then, suddenly, the war is over.

Don’t let a trailer fool you into thinking this is a war movie, a war satire, or even an action movie! It ain’t! JARHEAD is an adaptation of the memoirs of the real Anthony Swofford, and it’s about the boredom, pointlessness, frustration and anger of a soldier. A soldier who feels betrayed because he didn’t get his war, and despite doing virtually nothing in this war, it has changed him forever.
The actors are fine (Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard), the scenes are beautifully photographed, the Marines are not glorified as you know it from other films, and everything smells of truth – but ultimately, it’s beautiful pictures about boredom. Amazingly JARHEAD is not boring, but far from what it could have been if the book’s edges hadn’t been polished away.

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