Booze, Baseball, and another "B"

Monday, November 07, 2005

A quick word on....

.... Jarhead.

Having had the opportunity to take in a viewing of Sam Mendes' newest film on Friday, I must say that I'm a little surprised at the critical panning the film is receiving. While I would say that it's probably not as good as either of his prior efforts (Road to Perdition and American Beauty), I could not say that Jarhead was an unenjoyable film. Jarhead was one of the very few films of the last two years that I can say I got my money's worth when I saw it in the theater.

The main problem, if I understand said problem correctly, is that not enough happens in the film. I suppose that one could accurately make that argument, however if you remember back 15 years, not much happened for many soldiers in the Gulf War! And I think this is one of the points of the film, which those who are not aware of RMA would obviously completely miss; that is, war is quickly becoming less personal, easier to wage, and now consists heavily of air power and "stand-off" distance engagements. This issue is dealt with throughout the film, and I think that for people who either don't know about this, or don't think about it, wouldn't expect. Remember the campaign in the Balkans? Gen. Wesley Clark (yes, the same guy who wanted to pay Americans to go to college, and tried to run for president, and then looked horribly out of his element at the Democratic National Convention)? Air power was the name of the game, and that's why we call it a "revolution" in military affairs. It's a shift in how wars are fought, and it really is one of the main points of Jarhead, whether you pick up on it or not.

I think the problem with this film is that people (definitely these critics) are going in expecting a "war movie." They're expecting: Saving Private Ryan, We Were Soldiers, Patton, maybe even Windtalkers. Jarhead is none of those films. It's one guy's disillusioned story, which I would wager is closer to real life than most war films made before it.

We don't get to see the Gulf War equivalent of the 101st fighting off the Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge. We don't get to see Jake Gyllenhaal riding around grassy hills, jumping his motorcycle; instead we're told that many of the best ways of passing time in the 112 degree heat in the Saudi desert, while waiting for a war, consist of masturbating. We're told that women often aren't faithful to these guys when they're gone, and that war isn't like it is in the John Wayne movies. If you want to see an AC-130 gunship take out a village full of enemies, rent The Green Berets. If you want to know what the Gulf War was like for a guy who was actually there, go see Jarhead.

When the film finished in the theater, a gentleman who had brought his teenage son to the film and was sitting two seats from me, loudly informed all of us sitting around him of his appraisal of the film, "that sucked." Being that just before the start of the movie, I was planning out my all-day Veterans' Day marathon of Band of Brothers, I guess that I could see where he was coming from. If you want big invasions, a sweeping story, and a happy ending, that's not what you're going to get when you watch Jarhead. However I also had the advantage of not expecting to see Platoon when I saw Jarhead.

I think that in the future, Jarhead will be a movie looked upon much like Pulp Fiction is now; that is, people will either love it or hate it. It is very rare that you come across someone who takes a middle position with Pulp Fiction, and I think that Jarhead will be the same way, people will either think that it is an excellent film, which touches on the tough times that young men go through when they're put into a war, the trouble with lacking a direction for your life when you get out of high school, the pain of being away from the ones you love, and the sacrifices people in the Armed Forces make, or people will think that it is a movie where: nothing happens, the main character is not portrayed in an overly positive light, and that it is a film which does not take a firm stance either way on the politics of the Gulf War.

If you want a movie that takes a political stance on war, go watch Fahrenheit 9/11. If you're on the fence about Jarhead, I recommend seeing the movie yourself and formulating your own opinion.

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