Generally, I'm not a fan of war movies. The John Wayne soldier flicks and similar movies from decades ago never appealed to me, primarily because the seemed to have too simplistic a perspective of war. Aside from Platoon and Full Metal Jacket--two movies that delved deep into the psychological trauma of war--I can't recall a war film I've liked.
Jarhead has been collecting dust atop my DVD player for a week or so, primarily because I had little interest in seeing it. I skipped many of the reviews when it opened, so I had little idea what to expect. Figuring Jarhead was Donnie Darko in a Marine uniform, I avoided the movie until I had nothing left to entertain me this weekend.
I'm sorry I waited.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Anthony Swofford, a young marine who finds himself fighting in the Gulf War soon after enlisting. Swofford comes from a dysfunctional family, and enlists mostly because he has few other options. Desperate to belong to something, Swofford soon discovers that the present day Corps is disorganized, outdated and nearly irrelevant. He and his fellow jarheads spend months in the desert waiting for instructions that will activate their unit; each marine kills time the best way he can, as each tries to stay focused on goals and their inter-unit bond. In the end, Swofford seems to recognize that the Marine Corps. he thought he was enlisting in is really a myth.
Jarhead can't really be categorized as a war movie. The movie pulls back the curtain on the military lifestyle, but the film could be about corporate America, politics, organized religion or many other societal constructs that is more legend these days than substance. I'm glad I finally saw it. You should too. ***