Based on Anthony Swofford memoir about the Persian Gulf War, “Jarhead” concerns Marines being pumped up for combat that doesn’t come…at least not like scene in “Apocalypse Now.” Swofford is portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, whose character echoes his fellow Marines in their relentless lament, “Are we ever going to kill anyone?” Besides beautiful Roger Deakins’ photography highlighting the surrealism of the Arabian desert, “Jarhead” is mostly filled with Marines horsing around or enduring nasty punishments from Staff Sergeant Sykes (Jamie Foxx). One such punishment is playing football in 112-degree heat while dressed in cumbersome chemical-protection suits. Another is cleaning overflowing outhouses, also in 112-degree heat.
Much of the Marines time is also spent pining over their girlfriends or wives back home. This leads to masturbation, fears that the woman are cheating and more masturbation.
Swofford is trained to be a sniper, but he never gets to fire a shoot, except when the end of the war is announced and he shoots his gun into the empty air. At one point, Swofford and his buddy, Troy (Peter Sarsgaard), have the enemy in their sights. However, their action is stopped when a F-14 jet incinerates the enemy soldier and his entire battalion. High-tech war is frustrating for the average grunt.
Directed by Sam “American Beauty” Mendes, “Jarhead” is a very honest portrait of the Persian Gulf War from a Marine’s perspective. The problem is that when President Bush, proclaimed, “Mission accomplished,” after a few weeks, he was right in terms of the marines on the ground who were waiting to enter the battle.
That may be fine for humanity, but it doesn’t make for an action-packed war movie.
Best to buy the DVD of “Apocalypse Now.”