MovieHype00662 – JARHEAD
As I was watching JARHEAD I got the impression that this film had big aspirations. Not to be some epic war movie—director Sam Mendes is too intelligent to attempt recreations of the very masterpieces he gives homage—but the definitive movie about what a soldier’s life is like, specifically in Gulf War I.
Having talked to more than a few who were in that conflict, the overwhelming perspective is that JARHEAD gets that part right, and taking their word for it, I tip my cap there.
But a movie has to be more than just getting things right. It must entertain, yes, but if the movie aims high, it must also inspire, teach, and transcend.
To me JARHEAD was good but not great, informative but not inspiring, provocative but not profound.
Hyperion’s Rating Guide
Suspension of Disbelief (0 – 10): 1. Just short of documentary.
Genre Grade: While not a typical war movie, that’s the genre we have to put it in. JARHEAD can’t go I the same league as PRIVATE RYAN, FULL METAL JACKET, APOCALYPSE NOW or even BLACK HAWK DOWN, but it’s a notch above some others. B-.
Sex/Violence/Nudity/Language: absolutely not for kids. It’s a war movie, about male soldiers. If you’re stupid enough to let your kids watch this, you deserve whatever you get.
Kickassability: strangely low, considering it’s a war movie, but then again, since the characters don’t really get to fight, maybe it makes a certain sense. 8 (out of 100).
Pantheon Percentile: the PP measures what percentage of movies JARHEAD is better than. While not my favorite war movie, JARHEAD is still a far better movie as a whole than most of the stuff that comes out. 80.
All the pieces were in place: celebrated screenwriter William Broyles Jr., uber-artist/director Sam Mendes (whose last two films were ROAD TO PERDITION and AMERICAN BEAUTY), and a stellar cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Peter Saarsgard, and even President Palmer.
Everyone in the preceding paragraph was excellent, and all the pieces fit. In fact, I’m not sure why I’m saying anything negative, as I enjoyed JARHEAD quite a bit.
But there was something missing, something hard to identify. I think my problem was that at times I “saw” the adaptation of the life of soldier Anthony Swofford. The movie attempts to be faithful, but almost no movie can cram everything a book has into a two hour event. Too many things were short-changed as they were rushed.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just making excuses. JARHEAD is a fine film not so much about war, but about waiting to go to war. Everything I saw rang true, from what I know and what I’ve heard. If you like movies about war and soldiers I have no reason to believe that you won’t like JARHEAD.
But I couldn’t help but feel that in my heart of hearts, JARHEAD could have competed for Best Picture. It didn’t quite get there, and that left me just a tad hollow.
Then again, that’s what the soldiers go through in far worse conditions than I, so maybe I should quit bitching.