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Full Metal Jacket(1987)
The story of an 18-year-old marine recruit named Private Joker - from his carnage- and-machismo boot camp to his climactic involvement in the heavy fighting in Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive.
For more about Full Metal Jacket and the Full Metal Jacket Blu-ray release, see Full Metal Jacket Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 9, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, Dorian Harewood, Kevyn Major Howard
Director: Stanley Kubrick
» See full cast & crew
Full Metal Jacket Blu-ray Review
Stanley Kubrick's Vietnam War masterpiece receives a much-deserved upgrade on Blu-ray
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 9, 2007
You're so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece!
Ugly? This movie is anything but. Sure, on the surface it's very ugly. The language, the nonstop torturous physical training, and the war can be and often is ugly and disgusting. Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket is such a beautifully crafted movie, however, that it really is a modern art masterpiece of film. Platoon may have walked away with the Oscars, but Full Metal Jacket is, bar none, the definitive Vietnam War movie.
One of the many beautiful things about this movie is that it is more than a Vietnam war movie. Like The Deer Hunter, the first half of the film deals with life away from the war. In the case of The Deer Hunter, a group of friends from Western Pennsylvania experience the fullness of life hunting deer and attending a wedding before heading for the jungles of Vietnam. In Full Metal Jacket, the first shot of the film is of fresh recruits having their heads shaved as they enter boot camp, the first step in dehumanizing them in order to rebuild them from the ground up (or maybe from the head down) to be U.S. Marines. Other films such as Apocalypse Now and Platoon drop the viewer in-country from the get-go.
Full Metal Jacket is, on the surface, the story of Private Joker (Matthew Modine), a raw recruit whose journey takes him from boot camp at Parris Island to Hue City in Vietnam as a reporter for Stars and Stripes, and smack-dab in the middle of the Tet Offensive. This was a massive and coordinated North Vietnamese attack on every American installation in the country during the famous Vietnamese holiday that is like "the Fourth of July, Christmas, and New Year all rolled into one." While at Parris Island, Private Joker is introduced to three crucial characters--Private Cowboy (Arliss Howard), Private Pyle (Vincent D'Onforio in one of the most memorable roles in film history), and Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (Lee Ermey, also as one of film's most memorable characters). Private Pyle is an overweight recruit who is finding adapting to the rigors of Marine Corps training painful and near impossible. It's Sgt. Hartman's job to get him into combat shape, and he uses every means at his disposal to accomplish this task including some of the foulest language you will ever hear, physical punishment, and finally blaming the platoon for Pyle's shortcomings. He also turns to Joker to mentor Pyle and attempt the impossible--to turn him into a lean, mean, green killing machine. By the end of boot camp, Pyle is indeed a killing machine, leading to a chilling, all-time classic movie confrontation.
Once in Vietnam, Joker and his photographer, Rafterman (Kevyn Major Howard), are sent to the front lines to cover the Tet Offensive and the U.S. counterattack near the Perfume River. It is here that he is reunited with Cowboy and is introduced to his squad mates, EightBall (Dorian Harewood) and Animal Mother (Adam Baldwin). On patrol in the city, the squad ends up lost and comes under fire from a sniper, causing panic and the deaths of several Marines.
I have always found the theme of the movie to revolve round Joker's statement regarding the "duality of man." He wears a peace symbol on his body armor while "Born to Kill" is written on his helmet. The entire film is a study in duality. The film is divided into two distinct halves, each its own story including an exposition, a climax, and a dénouement. The characters themselves, especially upon arrival in Vietnam, are almost bipolar; they are trained killers on one hand, but the harshness of boot camp and the war has not completely removed from them their sense of humanity and camaraderie, though we see glimpses of lost sanity including a scene where the corpse of a Vietnamese soldier is the "guest of honor" at a party. Even Animal Mother, the gung-ho, M-60 wielding, shoot anything that moves (or doesn't), vicious killer foregoes his own safety and concern for self above all else that he displayed earlier in the film to rescue fallen Marines who have become victims of the sniper. The score too plays a part in this case study. Upbeat, hip tunes of the 1960s play over the more agreeable and lighter moments in the film, but an industrial sounding, heavy, creepy, metallic sounding score foreshadows scenes of impending peril. The film ends as Marines walk out of the city where they have seen dozens of their friends killed singing the Mickey Mouse Club song, reverting to a childlike sense of indifference or mentally blocking the death and destruction they are leaving behind. This film is a masterpiece on so many levels, everything about it is right. Many Marines have commented that this film, above all others, most accurately represents what life in the Marine Corps and in war is all about. No film could garner higher praise than that.
Full Metal Jacket Blu-ray, Video Quality
This presentation of Full Metal Jacket is extraordinary. I've never seen this film in anything but a 4:3 presentation (which is the way Kubrick intended his films to be shown on home video), but the new, 1080p theatrical wide 1.85:1 version looks so much more natural. As today's home theater systems are able to more closely replicate the theatrical experience, presenting this disc in its theatrical aspect ratio rather than the home video 4:3 version is not a decision I am disappointed with.
I don't have the old Blu-ray edition to compare this to, but from what I understand it's not a good looking transfer. Even without a direct comparison to the old Blu-ray, I have seen this film countless times on VHS and DVD. This is the best I have ever seen it, bar none. This is a very lifelike image. I didn't notice any noise except in a few darker scenes, and even that was miniscule. There are no noticeable specs or dirt on the print. The image is sharp and clear and there is no edge enhancement to be seen. I'm simply ecstatic to have this film looking this good on Blu-ray. This is not a picture that will "pop" off your screen, but the source is in such good shape and is so crystal clear, that this is certainly a joy to behold for a longtime fan of this movie. You won't find Full Metal Jacket looking better anywhere else.
Full Metal Jacket Blu-ray, Audio Quality
This is a good sounding track. Warner Brothers presents Full Metal Jacket with a 5.1 PCM uncompressed track along with the old standby, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. There is not a lot of active surround sound during the first half of the film, but it certainly works well. Echos inside the barracks sound great. Bass heavy militaristic marching music sounds wonderful, as if it is being played by a live band in your living room. It is crisp and clean. Once the action switches to Vietnam, surrounds get much more active in the action sequences. Explosions and gunfire fill the room, immersing the viewer in the fighting. The "industrial," bass heavy, bearer-of-dread score for the combat and intense Parris Island scenes mixed in with popular music from the era for the more relaxed scenes works remarkably well in this film.
Full Metal Jacket Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are two primary supplements on this disc: a documentary and a feature commentary track with Adam Baldwin (Animal Mother), Vincent D'onofrio (Private Pyle), Lee Ermey (Gunnery Sergeant Hartman), and Screenwriter/Author Jay Cocks. This commentary track is rather incongruous. Each participant recorded alone and it never really flows. There is some good information here, but I must admit I was disappointed by the flow. Vincent D'Onofrio is the best participant of the bunch. He hangs around even after his character is no longer in the movie. He offers impressive insights into acting and the doors this film opened for him as an actor, the mind of Kubrick and his approach to the making of the film, and reaction to the film and his character from family, friends, critics, and the public at large.
Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil (480p, 30:49) is a look into Stanley Kubrick and his film. This feature delves into the inspiration for the film (namely the book Short Timers by Gustav Hasford) and the effect of other Vietnam movies (namely Apocalypse Now) coming out as Kubrick was deciding to make the film. The casting of Matthew Modine, Vincent D'onofrio, and Lee Ermey is discussed at leangth. Vincent D'onofrio is genuinely grateful to Kubrick and this role, crediting him with advancing his film career. Also discussed is filming in East London, and the challenge of making London look like Hue City in Vietnam, and an alternate ending that was discussed but never filmed. This is a solid documentary and is not to be missed by fans of this film.
Finally, Warner Brothers has included a theatrical trailer for this film, presented in 480p.
Full Metal Jacket Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The debate will always rage as to which film is the best of the Vietnam war movies, but my money remains on Full Metal Jacket. Stanley Kubrick's phenomenal direction on top of several unforgettable characters make this a must see and a must own. This Blu-ray release is a remarkable upgrade from any version I have ever seen both visually and sonically. I wish there was more in the way of supplements, but what we get is good. This disc gets my highest recommendation.
Full Metal Jacket: Other Editions
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