Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Jarhead :Frustration 101

Jarhead hit the big screen yesterday and my usual partner in crime,Little Sister,joined me at a rather well attended early showing(the trailers were so dull I actually couldn't remember them
afterwards,except for King King which had the guy behind us saying"You believe they're remaking
this shit?"). Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Anthony Swofford(on whose memoir the film is based),a
newly inducted Marine who starts out well by telling his first drill sarge that he "got lost on the
way to college" as his reason for joining up(he gets his head smashed into a blackboard for that answer).

The Gulf War is brewing as Swofford is training to be a sniper in the company of Staff Sarge Sykes
(played right on key by Jamie Foxx) and he is as eager to get some action as the rest of his fellow
soldiers who get a buzz from watching the infamous helicopter bombings in Apocalypse Now and
exchange sexual boasts and warnings about unfaithful women. Once they get to the desert,the
soldiers(first in Operation Desert Shield)are told to play the waiting game as the politicians are
still setting things up but are encouraged to be in a state of "suspious alert". The boredom sets
in and the men find little ways to blow off steam that occasionally lead to nasty consequences
such as a Christmas party in which a a fellow soldier covering Swofford's watch causes several
arms to blow up that Swofford winds up paying the price for.

Sam Mendes uses very little of his dream sequence techique here(there is one memorable
dream where Swofford pukes up sand in a bathroom sink)and saves the best visuals for many
of the desert scenes when Operation Desert Storm commences-the oil well fires,the finding of
charred cars and bomb victims,the oil spill rain that coats the men as they march across the
terrain hold a beautiful surrealistic quality that doesn't overshadow the actors-rather, it adds
to their performances.

Gyllenhaal gives a great performance(his best scene is when Swofford openly threatens to pull
a friendly fire on the guy who caused him to be demoted-totally chilling)but this is truly a good
ensemble cast,particularly Peter Sarsgaard as Swofford's buddy Troy who sums up one of the
main themes of the film,frustration in a tense scene near the end. Frustration is key to this movie-even when the action starts,the ground troops are rendered inefficent by the airstrikes
which many of us remember most about the Gulf War. It's like they're caught in Carly Simon's
"Anticipation" chorus-"they keep making me wa-ii-ttt!".

Judging by the audience I was with,Jarhead should do well,boxoffice wise. However,if you're
looking for a shoot'em,this is not the movie for you. Jarhead is an excellant mediatation on
the anticlimax and gives a regular guy's view on what it was like over there in that moment.
I see many of the reviews of this movie preferring Three Kings,which I suspect is due to
Three Kings' being more criticial of the government than Jarhead is. While I enjoyed Three
Kings,the main difference between that movie and this one is that Jarhead is based from the
point of view from someone who was actually on the ground in Iraqi at that time,dodging
bombs to get a dead replacement battery for a radio that went dead. At one point,a fellow
Marine brings up the reasons why the US is getting involved with Iraq and Troy replies
"Fuck politics-we're here now." That is reality,folks-reality trumps politics every time.


Jake McCafferty said...

"Three Kings" sucked. George Clooney sucks. There, I said it. Plus Jamie Foxx. You can't beat Jamie Foxx.

lady t said...

Now,don't be shy there,Jake-tell us how you really feel about Three Kings!:)

Jamie Foxx was pretty cool in Jarhead-didn't see Ray due to the overhype but glad that he got the Oscar.