Stanley Kubrick was a man of unique vision. He often spent years on a single film, meticulously fine-tuning every detail until he achieved the perfection he expected. Time has been kind to his latter-day films. What once were considered disappointing and inferior to his earlier masterpieces are now being reconsidered, more than twenty years after his untimely death in 1999. Full Metal Jacket was released in 1987 during a series of films about the Vietnam War that included Oliver Stone’s Platoon and Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War. Like Full Metal Jacket, these films depended on graphic realism to tell their story. Mixed with Kubrick’s unique visuals, Full Metal Jacket is a truly unnerving look at utter chaos.
Split into two distinct halves, the first part of the film follows the training of a platoon at Parris Island during Vietnam, with focus on Private J.T. ‘Joker’ Davis (Matthew Modine) and Leonard ‘Gomer Pyle’ Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio). It’s the job of Senior Drill Instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) to turn this latest group of green recruits into coldblooded killing machines. His methods are draconian at best, designed to break the spirit and force conformity. Despite his best efforts, Lawrence is a bit of a bumbling buffoon and regularly incurs Hartman’s wrath. When none of his training techniques seem to be getting Lawrence up to speed, Hartman decides to pair him with ‘Joker,’ hoping that some guidance from a fellow recruit might help. Initially, it seems to be working, but all bets are off when the Sergeant finds out Lawrence has hidden contraband. The Sergeant institutes a ‘punish everyone except Lawrence for his mistakes’ policy, which ultimately causes the recruits to beat Lawrence one night in a blanket party. Almost overnight, Lawrence becomes a model recruit. Even so, Joker remains concerned that his training buddy might be ripe for a nervous breakdown.
As we cut to the second act, Joker is in Vietnam working as a reporter for Stars and Stripes. He and his photographer, Rafterman (Kevyn Major Howard), are sent to the front lines to cover the Tet Offensive and the U.S. counterattack near the Perfume River. Here he is reunited with trainee Cowboy (Arliss Howard) and is introduced to the rest of his squad, EightBall (Dorian Harewood) and Animal Mother (Adam Baldwin). During patrol in the city, the squad gets lost and finds themselves under fire from a sniper, causing panic and the deaths of several men.
Full Metal Jacket isn’t a movie so much about the battles of war (though there are plenty of combat scenes), as much as it is about the war experience and its effect on the psyche of each individual man. Kubrick’s message is clear: war desensitizes even the most compassionate of men.
Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Warner Bros. has delivered a positive 4K transfer. Sharpness is strong throughout, with only a few wide shots showing slight softness. This is a minor issue, as most of the film is weak defined. I saw no edge haloes or jagged edges. Light grain appears throughout, and no print flaws are apparent. The subdued palette is replicated well, particularly the golden tones. HDR added impact to the hues. Black levels are deep and dense. Shadow detail is appropriate. HDR brought greater impact to these elements as well as to contrast and the whites.
Warner has provided the same lossless PCM 5.1 track available on earlier releases. You won’t find a lot of stereo spread or surround activity here. Nonetheless, activity out of the rear and side speakers is quite good, offering a nice array of ambient effects. Bass is quite good, as is the midrange, resulting in combat scenes and dialogue that sound better than ever.
Worth a note, Warner has also provided the film’s original mono audio mix, not available since the DVD days.
English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, German, German SDH, Italian, Italian SDH, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Norwegian, and Swedish subtitles are available.
The following extras are included:
On the 4K Disc:
- Full Metal Jacket Audio Commentary: Recorded separately, author/screenwriter Jay Cocks and actors Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’onofrio and Lee Ermey make for a bit of a disjointed commentary. However, they do provide some interesting insights particularly regarding the boot camp sequences.
On the Blu-ray Disc:
- Between Good and Evil (HD, 30:49) Matthew Modine joins his castmates to discussthe film’s development, casting, behind-the-scenes issues, shooting challenges and, of course, Kubrick and his approach to the material, his actors, etc.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:28)
- Digital Copy
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Movie title: Full Metal Jacket
Duration: 116 min
Director(s): Stanley Kubrick
Actor(s): Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, Dorian Harewood, Kevyn Major Howard
Genre: Drama, War, History, Melodrama