Saturday, April 08, 2006


Jarhead (the self-imposed moniker of the Marines) follows "Swoff" (Gyllenhaal), a third-generation enlistee, from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, sporting a sniper's rifle and a hundred-pound ruck on his back through Middle East deserts with no cover from intolerable heat or from Iraqi soldiers, always potentially just over the next horizon. Swoff and his fellow Marines sustain themselves with sardonic humanity and wicked comedy on blazing desert fields in a country they don't understand against an enemy they can't see for a cause they don't fully fathom. Foxx portrays Sergeant Sykes, a Marine lifer who heads up Swofford's scout/sniper platoon, while Sarsgaard is Swoff's friend and mentor, Troy, a die-hard member of STA—their elite Marine Unit.

Watched the DVD Jarhead tonight.
I think it is one of the best war movies I have ever watched, in the sense that it made me think, made me realize the realities of modern warfare perhaps more than any news program, any history channel documentary.
The movie is an adaptation of Anthony Swofford's novel Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War.

What I saw, what I felt from viewing was that the modern day ground soldier, or at least the ones from The Gulf War, were on the sidelines, their training seemed almost like the brainwashing you imagine when hearing about religious cults, having the soldiers watch old vietnam movies before they leave for the combat zone, like Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, getting them prepared to become killing machines. Thus they arrive in the desert, prepared for war.

Yet, for months they sit on the sidelines, practicing maneuvers until they can do them in their sleep. Dealing with, but totally unprepared for the utter boredom, unprepared for the intense heat and the sand, one segment of the movie details in a repetetive format the basic humdrum activities of their daily lives......we see the boredom, the days and days of boredom, we see what that can do a man's mind. Being in a place of having to be on constant alert, but nothing happens, 6 months of nothing happening.

When we do see images of the war, it felt very real, it brought back the news footage I watched during Desert Storm, seeing the bodies of Iraqi soldiers, or Kuwaities (sp?) lying burned, dead on the roads.

For some reason, watching this DVD made me think of my 11th grade english/social studies teacher, this is a movie she would have taken our class to, or shown to us.....she felt that history was learned better if you could visualize it.....she would have assigned Swofford's book for us to read, to discuss, and then had us watch the DVD.....that is how she brought the understanding of Watergate into our minds, we read, then watched All the President's Men.

If you haven't seen it, rent it or buy it, it is well worth your time.

An excerpt from Swofford's book:

We march 20 miles, and the only enemy we see are those who surrendered, and their dead friends in trenches and burnt vehicles. I've never seen such destruction. The scene is too real not to be real. Every 50 to 100 feet, a burnt-out and bombed-out enemy vehicle lies disabled on the road. Dozens, hundreds, of them. Perhaps those two burnt men, one missing both arms, perhaps they were thinking they might make it back to Baghdad and their families for a picnic; and that man crushed under the T62 turret, he was running from God knows what to God knows what, and of all the godfuckingunlucky space in the desert, he stopped and paused right where the turret landed.

This is war, I think - the epic results of American bombing, American might. The filth is on my boots. I am one of a few thousand people who will walk this valley today. Whether I live or die, the US will win this war. If colonialism weren't out of style, I'm sure we'd take over the entire Middle East, not only safeguard the oil reserves, but take them: We're here to announce that you no longer own your country, thank you for your cooperation, more details will follow.

The sky is a dead grey from the oil fires billowing to the north. We hump and hump, and look at one another with blank, amazed faces. Is this what we've done? What will I tell my mother?

1 comment:

Phil said...

A movie about boredom? Yet it's interesting? What a concept!