Full Metal Jacket – dir.Stanley Kubrick, 1987

This film ostensibly obliterates any political sense, any socialistic sense, any sense at all of the Vietnam War, if there was any even there to begin with. The ascetic regimented lives of the marines are portrayed primarily.  The slow overweight one (Vincent D’Onofrio) is bullied, taunted, abused, verbally and physically, he is torn apart.  Barely able to recognise his own moniker, he finally goes ‘Section A,’ and, after first shooting his tyrannical taunting Sergeant (R. Lee Ermey), he blows his brains out over the bathroom wall.  Here is a glimpse of actual madness and of homicide, here in the confines of this bathroom, but what separates this act of an unhinged reality with that of the seemingly berserk American shooting down from a helicopter at the paddy fields below? Private Joker (Matthew Modine), our nominally punning protesting protagonist wears a peace badge, simultaneously his helmet is adorned with the bold scribble ‘Born to kill.’  Joker acknowledges in himself a Jungian Duality, as both an objector and willing participant.  Joker stands for America, unable to divorce a peaceful yet passive personal stance from the active governmental invasion.  He is a strange one, gently mocking, subtly loyal, rarely does he offer likability until, ironically, he shoots dead the writhing sniper girl, after she pleads and prays to be killed.  The others jeer, ‘hardcore man,’ but they misunderstand his action, it was not one of vengeance, but of mercy.  He acknowledges the pointless destruction of a culture, of a civilisation.  He witnesses the interchangeable identity of both the American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians, once victim, then enemy sniper, then back to victim, writhing on the floor, flapping around, praying for herself, for her country.  The soundtrack is intrusive at times, as though it were an active involvement of pop cultural relief in an otherwise hellish harrowing and unfamiliar world.  The real strength of the film comes in Joker’s wry perception of reality, he came here to kill, he says, but we know this bespectacled man is a writer, a thinker, he didn’t come here to kill, but to see, to witness things. He has no apparent threshold. He’s seen a man blow his brains out, kill in cold blood, and he’s seen virile beefy grown men die, shot at from a distance, by a little girl.  After he’s left, his narrative reflection says he’s glad to be alive, but after the things we’ve seem him see, we wonder if he’s joking.

★★★★☆

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