From the cruelty of Marine basic training to the intolerable boredom and heat of Desert Shield and the five days of adrenaline rush of the actual war Jarhead is the real life tale of Marine Anthony Swofford.
Film making 22/25
Bonus Features 10/25
War is hell, but not actually participating may be even tougher than you would think on the nerves and mental stability for troops having to be at the ready on the front lines. Jarhead is based on the book Jarhead by Anthony “Swoff” Swofford about his action, or lack thereof, in Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Marine recruit Swofford from basic training with a few short clips and through some of his more intense training until he finally finds a place as a sniper. The intense training and grueling pace from basic and follow on training slows as he finds his true calling and does very well at sniping until Desert Shield calls his unit to action.
The action is anything but real war and you are shown not the true and gritty life of a soldier in the heat of battle but the life of combat ready troops before they see action. Jarhead is the dreary and boring life of a soldier training day in and day out under scorching sun in the desert sands waiting for something to happen. Desert Shield lasted 175 days for the unit Swofford was assigned to with daily combat training, gas mask drills and intolerable heat daily.
Boredom soon turns to near insanity as each soldier tries to find his own way to relieve the stress and boredom but many are changed forever in ways they do not fully comprehend. Through several life altering events the unit has a few close calls between each other instead of with an enemy they have almost never seen.
Once the real fighting begins the war is always just out of reach of the sniper unit and they instead get to see the bloody and charred aftermath. Anthony Swofford and his spotter, Alan Troy played by Peter Sarsgaard, are given one opportunity to actually fight in the war only to have the chance snatched away at the last second.
While waiting for the order to shoot at a target an officer storms their position and demands they stand down so his unit can strafe the target instead of a single sniper taking out the commander. Troy goes crazy and assaults the officer as he wants to see some kind of action before he gets kicked out due to a background he hid from the military upon enlistment.
The unit is sent home after the five days of the war and many go their separate ways in a pretty moving summation when you take into account they really did not see much in the way of action. The emotions you feel and see displayed in front of others and behind closed doors during the war are ones you would not expect from trained soldiers but they are ones you can understand.
War is not something a person can really understand unless they have been there but to be so close to the fighting and yet have no part in it is also a real test of a person’s character. They have trained so hard and to come so close to the fighting yet to only see the burned bodies of people who had tried to flee in front of the advancing armies is moving.
Jarhead does a great job of showing another side to war that is all about the emotion, boredom and possible insanity that can come from such adrenaline pumping readiness and the letdown of no real combat. With plenty of great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard and Lucas Black you have a great film about the other side of war.
Jarhead shows why we should be grateful to all those that serve our country in any of the military as they do not have to actually see combat to experience emotional troubles. Jarhead is not your typical action based war movie but the more thought provoking movie of what happens to people in high stress situations for those serving near the front lines.
The Blu-ray edition of Jarhead is sorely lacking in extra content and does have a few commentary additions as well as a scene recorder but none of the usual U-control features or additional bonus material Blu-ray is known for. You still get the excellent quality high definition video and glorious Dolby Digital Surround Sound that creates a fantastic experience particularly for many scenes of this film.
One scene that is unforgettable about the ravages of war and what one side did so the other would suffer not only financial loses but possible ruin is the burning of the oil wells. The scenes with oil raining down and wells on fire are breathtaking and a must see experience in film that is very well done.
Jarhead is a great film and one really worth seeing, it gives a glimpse at what our troops are still experiencing in their daily lives near combat zones that we surely do not understand fully. Jarhead gives you a better understanding and emotional bond with soldiers for what they sacrifice in serving our country and is well worth a look at.