The Duality of Man
On his head is a symbol or peace and, next to it, the words “born to kill”. This complete conflict, two polar-opposite attitudes to war, is what roots itself in the themes of this film – these two stances are what makes men so conflicting in their stance towards war and violence. They can make a man go mad.
Set during the Vietnam war, the first 40-minutes of the film is exclusively set in the boot camp, on American soil, as the new privates are grilled through their paces by Hartman (Lee Emery). Hartmans attitude is aggressive and violent – everything that war is – beginning the soldiers career in a completely controlled and inhuman environment. We specifically follow Prvate ‘Pile’ – an overweight, gun-obsessed soldier – who Hartman takes great pleasure degrading and insulting. This culminates in Private Pile killing himself – after having killed Hartman. A complete shift in the film as we now move to follow Joker (Modine) as he is deployed to fight in the war.
The complete contrast between the unified, clean and controlled environment in the boot camp completely contrasts with destroyed, burnt out buildings of an uncontrolled war. When we move into war territory, the camera becomes more disorientating – handheld and rough, almost like documentary footage as we see stark silhouettes across the war-torn landscape
A Real Finale
It ends it horror as a woman is revealed to be a sniper – can Joker, Mr “Born to Kill”, kill this female sniper? The world is a different place – the environment is different. Soldiers choose to fight, they choose to defend, the choose to have the constant conflict of ‘peace’ against ‘brute force’. This woman clearly does not choose – her hand has been pushed to protect herself and her family.
Having watched this a few years ago, and only revisiting it now through this review, it makes me desperate to get stuck in again. The entire film you wait to see the ‘war’ within the film genre it resides – but we see the madness of war and the madness of training men for war.
Visually poetic, darkly humorous, uncompromisingly brutal, and subversive in every way, Full Metal Jacket is easily one of the best war movies without being remotely similar to your standard issue war flick.
Google what the sniper says on her death bed. CREEPY STUFF!! The ending is like a metaphor for Iraq and Vietnam wars. I think Kubricks point is that there is no duality of man. We make us vs them dualities to justify being murderers.
@CMrok93 – I think the depth of Full Metal Jacket alone puts it into that 'best war movies' category. Not just guns and masculinity.
@Anon – You are completely right. I was thinking today about how much I respected the military and then thought to myself how much I despise war… but then, could you argue, that the military IS war. And protection. But mostly war… hence our involvement in conflicts elsewere. Maybe. Because i do respect soldiers immensely.
Very interesting write up. Full Metal Jacket remains one of the most powerful depictions of the madness of war. As anti-war as it gets.
It is incredible – and to think that Kubrick has gone from this to 2001 to Clockwork to Shining … simply a genius.