When looking for movies to watch, I checked out a video essay by Storytellers analysing the 2005 War film Jarhead by Sam Mendes.

The YouTuber covers the movie by comparing it side by side to the Stanley Kubrick classic Full Metal Jacket (1987).

When it first came out, Jarhead was met with mixed responses from both critics and audiences alike.

My earliest memory of the film as a young boy was that it was pretty boring. But now, revisiting it almost 15 years later, I think it aged like fine wine.

Based on a Gulf War memoir by ex US Marine Anthony Swofford, the movie is set in the early 90s before, during and after Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Anthony “Swoff” Swofford, who joins the US Marine Corps after losing his way to college.

Sergeant Sykes, played by Jamie Foxx, sees the potential in Swoff and orders him to attend a Scout Sniper course.

After Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, Swoff’s unit is deployed to the Arabian Peninsula to prepare for a new war.

What Mendes does well is subvert expectation as the viewers, like the soldiers, were prepared for something like Vietnam. However, this wasn’t the case.

The Marines had to come to terms with the fact that this was a much more modernised warfare than what took place during the cold war.

Like any other war movie, people expect to see a fire fight with big explosions and overt examples of patriotism.

Though there are examples of that patriotism throughout, the war is portrayed as more of a mental one rather than physical combat.

Marines are trained to fight. When there is no combat and the biggest enemy you have to fight in a war is boredom, then it has a massive effect on a soldier’s mental health.

Gyllenhaal and his co-stars illustrate this perfectly as they each have mental breakdowns throughout the war.

Roger Deakins yet again does any amazing job with the cinematography. The colours used in this movie can be described as melancholic to reflect the plight of the war.

Perhaps my favourite piece of cinematography was the scene of the burning oil fields.

Despite the serious tone, the soundtrack was an interesting choice with a variety of 90s songs ranging from Nirvana to Public Enemy which somehow fits perfectly for each scene.

By the end of Jarhead, Swoff accepts that not all wars are the same in terms of the outcome of combat. But they are the same in terms of the effects it has on one’s mental health.

Source of Image – Empire

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