If I'm going to game a period I may as well see some films as well. I had never seen Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) so a few weeks ago I got a copy from Netflix and sat down to take a look. I was excited to see a well respected, big budget film and to see how it compared to it's contemporary: Platoon. Plus it inspired a catchy song!
I have to say the FMJ was a bit of a disappointment. For those that haven't seen it the movie is split between a sequence depicting Marine basic training and a sequence set in the city battle of Hue. In it's favor the entire movie is attractively filmed and there are many scenes that leave you saying "oh my, what a set of stark visual contrasts" or "gosh, someone knows how to get the most from a dolly shot."
That being said I felt let down otherwise. For one, much of the movie is formed by linking together well-known Vietnam anecdotes into a series of scenes. In doing so you end up with a set of memorable lines to be sure, but that's not the writer's craft. It felt like the plagiarism of otherwise unrelated famous quotes, rather like having one character say "I regret I have but one life to give for my country" and immediately another says "Hell yeah! For my part, give me liberty or give me death!"
Secondly, the training portion of the film seems superfluous to the second half. You could watch one or the other alone and really lose nothing. And at the end of the film itself I'm left with the feeling that the main character hasn't changed or grown, merely observed. Specifically, he has observed dramatizations of those famous anecdotes.
Which leads to my final issue, which is that if this film had been released in 1979 prior to Apocalypse Now you could at least give it credit for broaching some basic issues regarding the war. Instead, coming on the heels of Apocalypse, Platoon, and Deer Hunter, it really fails to add anything to the general understanding of the conflict. And without a strong story, interesting characters, or a passionate heart, that left Full Metal Jacket a bit of a dud for me.
Next: Apocalypse Now and Hearts of Darkness.