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, The Patriot), R. Lee Ermey (Dead Man Walking, Mississippi Burning), and Arliss Howard (The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Natural Born Killers).
Video: How does it look?
Full Metal Jacket is presented in a full frame transfer. Although this was one of the better looking discs in the previous Kubrick batch, the image still left a lot to be desired. As such, this new restored & remastered version is quite welcome, as it solves most of the problems and supplies an excellent overall picture. The excess grain present before is now minimized, which opens up the other elements and of course, the result is a marked improvement. The colors are a tad muted as intended, but seem fuller and more effective here, while flesh tones are natural also. The lack of grain allows the contrast to sharpen up also, much deeper and refined than before. I am well aware of the controversy over “theatrical vs. intended” aspect ratios here, but in any case, this is an awesome looking edition of Full Metal Jacket.
Audio: How does it sound?
A new Dolby Digital 5.1 option has been included, but sadly, the original mono is nowhere to be found. The new track sounds very good and while still reserved most of the time, adds some depth and immersive traits, quite impressive. Now, this doesn’t mean the windows will shake, but small touches can mean a lot and that’s the case here. The surrounds are used for music and some subtle effects, which ensures a natural overall experience. No complaints in terms of dialogue either, as vocals are sharp and clean, as well as consistent. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.