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In Vietnam, The Wind doesn't Blow it Sucks
By TJ, Grade 12, Fredericton High, Fredericton, NB

Full Metal Jacket
Stanley Kubrick
Warner Bros. (1987)

Full Metal Jacket, directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by Gustav Hasford and Michael Herr, follows the story of Pvt. Joker (Matthew Modine) struggling through boot camp and his dehumanization during the Tet Offensive.

The film was released in 1987 and is split informally into two parts. The first segment takes place in a U.S. Marines boot camp in South Carolina where we are introduced to Pvt. Joker and Pvt. Leonard (Vincent D'Onofrio). The drill sergeant, Sgt. Hartman (Lee Ermey) abuses the recruits both physically and mentally and finds an easy victim in the klutzy Pvt. Leonard, who he nicknames Gomer Pyle. Joker makes an effort to help Leonard with what ever he can't accomplish, be it tying his boots or assembling a rifle, but the entire camp ends up being punished for every mistake Gomer makes. The resulting hatred for ‘Gomer' is realized one night when Pvt. Leonard is sleeping. The other soldiers wrap their bars of soap in towels and beat Gomer with their homemade weapons while he sleeps. Joker is hesitant, but eventually joins in on the pounding of Leonard. The theme of dehumanization as a result of war crops up here, but Kubrick's characters just aren't believable enough to pull it off. Eventually Gomer commits a suicide-homicide in the barracks, killing Sgt. Hartman.

The films two most interesting characters are now dead, and the second segment begins. Joker has become a journalist for the Stars and Stripes, military magazine and follows a squad of soldiers through post Tet Offensive Vietnam. Joker meets up with Cowboy (Arliss Howard) his buddy from boot camp and a slew of other rag tag soldiers. This portion of the film has no message, and doesn't entertain the same dehumanization theme hinted at in the first segment.

The squad eventually runs into a sniper and has to deal with the death of a few of its members. Through the movie Joker reveals none of his ideals about war. This makes his character seem 2-D and takes away from his dehumanization.

The special effects are rather lackluster by today's standards, but prove effective. The most effective use of special effects comes during the sniper scene, with exit wounds and blood galore.

Full Metal Jacket may not be a deep movie about the meaning of the Vietnam War, and may not come up to par with Kubrick's other films, but I still found it enjoyable. The first segment of the movie however does not seem to fit with the second, which I feel is more action oriented than Kubrick originally wanted.


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