Full Metal Jacket (HD DVD)

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

As a band of young soldiers enter basic training before being shipped off to Vietnam, they have no idea what awaits them, both now and once in Vietnam. The men are instructed by Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey), a loud and cruel drill instructor who has little patience and runs his unit hard, as he feels it should be done. The new recruits include rebellious Private Joker (Matthew Modine), determined Private Cowboy (Arliss Howard), and of course the resident slacker, Private Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio). As they endure abuse from Sgt. Hartman, they also must push themselves to new limits, to become killing machines above all else. It seems the unit has solid potential, but when Private Pyle begins to fall behind, Sgt. Hartman makes his failure the unit’s failure and as such, Pyle is punished by his own fellow members. Joker decides to do what he can to push Pyle ahead and help him improve, but the pressure seems to be getting to both men, as well as the rest of the unit. If basic training has taken these men to such depths, what will happen when they’re shipped off to Vietnam, where even harsher conditions await?

This is one of the most unique and memorable war movies of all time, thanks to Kubrick’s surreal approach to the material. I would rank it close to Platoon and Paths of Glory as one of the best war flicks in fact, I like it that much. I happen to think both the training and battle sections work to perfection, but some feel the final half doesn’t match the first, which I can see from a certain perspective. This movie has the usual war elements, but with some dark comedy added in, as well as surreal moments, though neither stands out as forced. In other words, this is a well crafted motion picture that hits the mark, never slipping much on the path. The cast is excellent and includes such names as Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, and Adam Baldwin. Kubrick’s direction had to be tough to endure on this film, given the nature of the characters and volume of extended scenes, which makes the performances that much more impressive. I was very let down by Warner’s original release of this film, but the new restored & remastered edition here is a real treat and as such, comes highly recommended.

I don’t often find myself too impressed by Matthew Modine, but in this film, he won me over and showed his true potential. As the central character here, Modine must be our guide through the experience, especially the mental and emotional portions. He seems to fare very well in the later segments, but he shines when he first arrives at basic training, fresh off the boat, so to speak. I am surprised Modine was able to make the transitions needed with such effectiveness, but he does and as such, I have to give him much credit indeed. I don’t think he’s been too good since however, with a sparse amount of standout performances, but his work here is nothing short of excellent. You can also see Modine in such films as Cutthroat Island, Short Cuts, Vision Quest, Married To The Mob, and Pacific Heights. The cast also includes Vincent D’Onofrio (Men in Black, The Cell), Adam Baldwin (Predator 2, My Bodyguard), R. Lee Ermey (Dead Man Walking, Mississippi Burning), and Arliss Howard (The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Natural Born Killers).

Video: How does it look?

To my knowledge, this is the first “true” anamorphic transfer of this movie on a home video format. The previous DVD’s were matted at a 1.66:1 aspect ratio (per Kubrick’s intentions) but that’s been blown up a bit to a HD 1.78:1 print that, for the most part, looks great. Of all the HD titles that I’ve had the chance to look at – this is the “worst” of them, however the “worst” isn’t saying a whole lot as this sparkles. The one thing I noticed was some grain on the print, in some of the indoor scenes it was almost a problem, but compare that with the sharpness of the picture and you have a very happy medium. For the most part, this new HD transfer is great and certainly “Full Metal Jacket” has never looked better.

Audio: How does it sound?

As was the case with the previous DVD releases, the original mono track is nowhere to be found, but the DolbyTrue HD track does do a very good job of reproducing that mono track. Granted, “Full Metal Jacket” isn’t a movie built around sound, but for what it’s worth the soundtrack is great. The movie centers around dialogue, which is reproduced with the utmust faithfulness to the original mono track. Naturally the draw here is the picture and not the sound, but viewers shouldn’t have any complaints about the sound either.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Just like the previous DVD’s all that’s included here is the original theatrical trailer.

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