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Jarhead Review


                In the latest from director Sam Mendes, Jarhead tells the tale of U.S. Marine Anthony “Swoff” Swofford and his experience in the first Gulf War in 1989. Based on the real Anthony Swofford’s 2003 best-selling book of the same name, Jarhead tells the true story with gritty realism and wickedly dark comedy. The movie shows Swoff’s various experiences in his time in Iraq, as he and his fellow members of the STA elite Marine Unit deal with being separated from their wives and girlfriends (or just women in general), the lack of real action that this squad sees and just general boredom. And it’s this lack of action that leads to what might be the only problem with the entire movie, the lack of things that happen.

            Throughout the near two hours of runtime packed into Jarhead, the troops rarely pull out their guns, and if they do, many times it’s only in a military training activity. With a lot of time spent in military training, there is so much of the movie focuses on a sniper/scout’s relationship with his rifle that when it is rarely used makes the viewer thinking that he/she missed something. However, the lack of military action is not the flaw of the movie; it’s just something that wasn’t delivered.

            Jarhead’s biggest flaw is that the two hours of movie gives almost no story line, some random spurts of character development, and boils down to a lot of what would just be filler in other military movies. To the credit of screenwriter William Broyles Jr., who adapted Swofford’s book for the screen, Broyles manages to translate the harshness of the war environment to the screen with wickedly dark and quotable comic relief. There are plenty of memorable moments, ranging from the “cool man with gun” parts to dramatic “we’re at war, welcome to the suck” parts. The problem that would occur with any true story is that…it’s a true story, and sometimes in life there aren’t a lot of things happening, therefore Jarhead simply has little to say. Even though these men are very real and the effects of war seem to affect each of them in a certain way, most characters do not have a climactic moment. They are still enjoyable, there is just no moment of revelation or redemption to take away making the movie, like Swoff feelings of the war, feels empty. Empty, as Swoff narrates early in the movie, like the head of a U.S. Marine, empty like a Jarhead.

            The best thing about Jarhead is the great job that the entire cast does of embodying their roles as men in the military. Although Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx does shine in his role as Staff Sergeant Sykes, as well as Brian Geraghty as Fergus and Evan Jones as Fowler, it’s Peter Sarsgaard and Jake Gyllenhaal who steal the movie. Gyllenhaal’s scene of excellence was one where he thinks that the inactivity is beginning to make him crazy and he is angry at Fergus for causing a fire during Swoff’s watch. Swoff, who is much better with his gun than Fergus, is yelling at Fergus, frustrated because he got Swofford into a lot of trouble. Sarsgaard’s great scene is at a point when Staff Sergeant Sykes orders Sarsgaard’s character, Troy, and Gyllenhaal’s character, Swoff, to take out high-ranking military official. Troy expresses his deep desire to shoot this official, as it may be the only action he sees, the only chance to shoot his gun. The performances from top to bottom are great and make Jarhead much better than it might actually be.

            What Jarhead comes down to is a fairly uneventful movie which finds comedy in tragic times and great performances hold together this military movie giving it 7.5/10.

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