I’m a little behind the times on this one. Found a burnt copy in my brother’s cd folder and popped it in. I was equal parts fascinated and confused while watching it, and ultimately I realized that the confusion was created on purpose by the director, which I think takes balls. Am I allowed to be crude on my own blog? Sure, I guess.
But yes. Jake Gyllenhaal spends the entire war experiencing various forms of psychosis induced by boredom, insecurity about his girlfriend back home and fear. In Full Metal Jacket style he spend the first third training in the marines, and the rest of the movie out on the ‘battlefield’. Which involves many months of staving off boredom with pointless exercises, getting abused and yelled at, and then finally tramping around within Iraq as operation Desert Storm is waged around him and his men. When he finally staggers out of the desert and into the celebration party that marks the end of the war, he stands there stunned, and realizes that he never once shot his rifle.
Which actually worked for me. The focus settles on the bizarre, surreal landscapes that they tromp through, oil fields on fire, lighting up the heavens in coruscating tones of crimson and orange, the land dark and slick with raining oil. Or a convoy of burnt out civilian vehicles, replete with carbonized bodies. Endless camps, routine, enforced discipline, the men struggling to balance their desire for violence with the lack of activity. If you’ve seen Lawrence of Arabia, you’ll recall how much the backdrop played a part in the movie, how the landscape became almost a character. Jarhead features the same sort of love of the desert, the landscape, as seen through smoke and oil smeared goggles, and lit up by the lights of Hell.
So the confusion that reigns during the majority of the movie as you wait for the rifles to begin firing, the action to commence Black Hawk Down style slowly transmogrifies into a realization that there will be no action, that their ennui and frustration, their rage and bewilderment is the point. That war is a bizarre and surreal beast, and that (now this is a catchy way to end a blog post) sometimes the greatest battles are fought, not on the battlefield… but in your soul. (YEAH!)