(Review originally written at 9 July 2006)

It's amazing. This movie does perfectly show the whole madness of war...only without the war elements. No fighting, action or shooting is present here. Only a couple of well trained and motivated U.S. Marines who are getting more and more bored and fed-up and slowly start loosing their minds in the deserts in the Middle East, during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. The movie does a very good job at creating and making this sort of madness believable and sensible in the movie.

Just imaging being trained hard for months for something extreme that takes lots of expertise and skill and eventually getting deployed for fulfilling these tasks but in the end being never able to show and use these skills and expertise you trained so hard for, for so long under often extreme conditions. Waiting and preparing for something that never comes. Wouldn't you slowly start loosing your mind and be annoyed and bored at least? This is exactly what the story of "Jarhead" is about. Drinking water, moving over a hill, drinking water again and then some more, all over again without ever fighting or encountering an enemy. It all feels so pointless and it's a killer for the motivation. The Marines in "Jarhead" all slowly start to see the pointlessness and irrelevance of their mission and they abandon all hope that they well ever get to use their skills and their hard training. So they start concentrating more and more on different more trivial issues and 'crazy' pastimes.

This movie shows that people are people. Nothing in this movie is story is black or white. Its realistic and therefor the events and the characters of the movie become sensible and also understandable.

The movie is not an heavy drama. At least not as heavy as you might expect after reading this movie its plot line. The movie is told quite lighthearted and fast paced. Therefor it manages to become an entertaining movie to watch, despite its heavy and serious theme. If you have already seen the other Sam Mendes movie "American Beauty", you already know what sort of dark, realistic, subtle and unusual sort of humor you could expect.

After browsing around a little I find out that most of the people who didn't liked or even hated the movie had problems with the portrayal of the U.S. marines in the movie. They were offended and call it unrealistic and not fair toward the Marine Corps. However when you ask a random U.S. Marine, who was active in the first Gulf war around the same time period this movie is set in, he will tell you that this movie is fairly accurate and most of the Marines really behaved the way as presented in this movie. Even some Veterans active here on IMDb who expressed their opinions and feelings about this movie, confirm this. Doing a bit of research before commenting and expressing your hatred or your opinion in general about a movie, is never a bad idea. Just a friendly little word of advice toward a couple of fellow movie-critics here.

The movie is absolutely beautifully crafted. Sam Mendes style of directing is detailed with eye for realism, credibility and entertainment as well. He tells the story with lots of style as well. Just also look at the amazingly wonderful cinematography by Roger Deakins and the nimble editing by Walter Murch.

The acting is great although most of the actors are too old for their roles. Most of the Marines are supposed to be around 18-20 years old but most of the actors that portray them are above the 25 or older. Jake Gyllenhaal fits the main part well and delivers a good performance. Jamie Foxx was yet again brilliant and he at least deserved an Oscar nod. Also great was Chris Cooper in a small, perhaps even cameo-sized role.

An impressive, though provoking movie about an interesting and relevant subject, that yet, is also entertaining to watch.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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