Stanley Kubrick was a man of unique vision. He often spent years on a single film, meticulously fine-tuning every last 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, nearly fifteen years after his untimely death in 1999. Full Metal Jacket was released in 1987 in the midst of a series of films about the Vietnam War that included Oliver Stone’s Platoon and Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War. Similar to 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 particular 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.
This is the same video transfer as Warner’s 2007 BD release. Framed in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, colors are natural looking and full and black levels are strong. Definition is not the greatest, though I suspect this has to do with Kubrick’s shooting style more than anything else. Faces look realistic throughout. In general, Kubrick fans should be pleased with this transfer.
Warner has provided a lossless PCM 5.1 track. 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.
English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, German, German SDH, Italian, Italian SDH, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Norwegian, and Swedish subtitles are available.
Along with the wonderful Digi-Book packaging, the following special features are included:
- Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes (SD, 61 minutes): Director Jon Ronson receives an invitation to the Kubrick estate following the filmmaker’s death and is given the opportunity to explore thousands of boxes and catalog the contents. The materials largely tell stories of what happened between the making of Kubrick’s films; the memos, the personal letters, the fan letters (organized by city of origin, with notes and identifying codes jotted on each one), the legal correspondences, the script dismissals and approvals, the abandoned ideas, etc. Interesting, but might be a bit much for the casual fan.
- 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 provided some interesting insights particularly regarding the boot camp sequences.
- Between Good and Evil (SD, 31 minutes): 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 (SD, 2 minutes)
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