Monday, November 07, 2005


To paraphrase David Spade, "Jarhead? I seen it. Only I liked it better the first time, when it was called Full Metal Jacket."

Operation Desert Storm was a four-day "war." If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that it just didn't have the same pathos/gravitas/meaning that Viet Nam did. Sure, it's been used successfully as the backdrop to films with something else on their mind, like Three Kings. But as a subject in and of itself, it's not particularly rich in meaning vis-a-vis the human condition.

There is in Jarhead, for instance, a scene where Jake Gyllenhall, who is going stir crazy from waiting to fight, points a gun at a fellow recruit and threatens to kill him if he doesn't recite a Marine mantra ("This is my gun. There are many like it, but this one is mine," etc. - Yes. That's right. The one from Full Metal Jacket). And you just don't buy it. I mean, really: these guys are going crazy in the desert not because of the horror of war, but because they're being denied the opportunity of participating in the horror of war.

The film's director, Sam Mendes, clearly feels the same way. It's a little pathetic watching an artist who was fortunate enough to grow up during a period of relative peace try to disingenuously appropriate the angst of his parents' generation. About halfway through Jarhead, a helicopter flies over the heads of Gyllenhall and his marine buddies, playing the Doors' Break On Through. He turns to his buddy and says "That's Viet Nam music. Can't we get our own fucking music?"

Exactly so.