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Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this critically acclaimed, brilliantly unconventional war story from Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes. Jarhead (the self-imposed moniker of the Marines) follows Swoff (Gyllenhaal) from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, where he sports a sniper rifle through Middle East deserts that provide no cover from the heat or Iraqi soldiers. Swoff and his fellow Marines sustain themselves with sardonic humanity and wicked comedy on blazing desert fields in a country they don’t understand against an enemy they can't see for a cause they don't fully grasp.
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Jamie Foxx stars as Staff Sergeant Sykes, a career soldier who is in command of an eight-man sniper team. There are four spotters and four shooters. Swoff is chosen as a shooter, while Troy becomes Swoff's spotter. The group trains endlessly until all the members of the team are experts at their craft. During their training, the Iraqis invade Kuwait, and Swoff's unit is sent to the Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield.
Upon arriving in the Gulf, the men find themselves with a little too much time on their hands. Time is spent by writing letters or playing football. In one instance, their football gets them into trouble, as Sgt. Sykes forces the men to put on their chemical warfare suits and play an entire game of football while members of the press look on.
After being in the Gulf region for several months with no action besides their own training, the war finally began in January, 1991. When the land campaign began, Swoff's unit was thrust into the fighting. Swoff and Troy were chosen to take out two Iraqi soldiers who were in a control tower. Making their way cautiously over the hot desert sand, they arrive at the perfect shooting site, 900 yards from their target. Having been given clearance to shoot, Swoff prepares to pull the trigger on his sniper rifle. However, just before he can shoot, another officer bursts through the door and informs Swoff and Troy that an airstrike is going to take out the tower. Despite all of their training and time spent in the Gulf, Swoff never got to fire his rifle in anger.
After the war, the group returned to the United States to many well-wishers who welcomed them home. One poignant moment at the end of the movie shows a Vietnam vet jump into Swoff's company's bus and shake hands with the men while telling them that they did a great job. One can sense that the Vietnam vet wished he would have received the same type of welcome twenty years earlier. Swoff's war lasted 4 days and 4 hours.
This is a very powerful movie. It compares closely to Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket". Both movies were told through the eyes of a single soldier. The accuracy of life in the desert is apparent throughout the movie, especially the parts where the soldiers are forced to deal with their boredom. The battle scenes are authentic as well, including the massive wreckage caused by the A-10 "Warthog" tank busters against Iraqi vehicles.
I recommend this movie. The acting, especially by Jamie Foxx and Jake Gyllenhaal, is very good, the combat sequences are realistic, and the story is compelling. Watch this very good movie and experience life in the Marines during Operation Desert Storm through the eyes of a Marine sniper.
Top international reviews
The acting is fantastic throughout, with standout performances from Jake Gyllenhaal as Swofford, Peter Sarsgaard as Troy and Jamie Foxx as Staff Sgt Sykes. The film focuses on the relationships between the squad mates and the monotomy and boredom of sitting around waiting for something to happen, followed by the bloodlust and excitement when a mission is finally assigned. The cinematography is spot on and there are some iconic Gulf War scenes, including a march down the Highway of Death and the burning of the oil wells.
A must-watch film for fans of the genre and for those looking for a war drama that is slightly different to the norm.
This film is maybe the least immediately comprehensible of Sam Mendes', becuase it apparently does not add much to war genre.
That said and looking back at it after some years, in reality it does say something different and new: just think about all the films that came after, like Hurt Locker, for instance.
Jarhead is maybe the first one which talks about was in a postmodern way (although Three Kings already presented some alienating moments referring to contemporary interconnected society (like the genius moment when Whalberg talks to his wife from a prison in Iraq) and the first that, despite all the controversy aroused by recent middle east wars, has the guts to admit that war may be exciting.
COLD FILM, COOL WAR?
Of course this is not a republican right winged film, but a very balanced one, which prefer to expose all the characters' reason rather than just relying on easy antiwar rhetoric.
And it does it by maintaining a cold, detached, almost unsettling and unsympathetic approach, thus resulting enigmatic as the face of Jackie Gillenhall, fascinating like all Mendes films, and interestingly controversial.
If you want to avoid upsetting all you preconceptions and oversimplificatiopns then do not buy either the movie or the book.
It's a movie full of humour, tragedy and great pictorial expanses. It borrows a bit from previous war movies dealing with Viernam in its characterisation, but still manages to set itself apart through its situations.
A movie which will set you thinking and definitely there for future reference.