Full Metal Jacket (1987) Review

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Drama, War

Runtime: 116 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Perhaps director Stanley Kubrick’s most accessible film, Full Metal Jacket is a masterpiece of a war movie that’s become iconic over the years. Recruits in the United States Marine Corps must survive boot camp so that they can serve in the battle to retake the city of Hue during the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War. This is not a slow, esoteric art film from Kubrick, like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), but rather the kind of motion picture that common audiences will find engaging.

One of the most memorable things about Full Metal Jacket is its deft black comedy. Yes, this is one of those flicks that makes you laugh as it disturbs you at the exact same time. A great deal of the dark humor comes from R. Lee Ermey, who plays Hartman, the menacing drill sergeant. He’s an unrelenting force of nature here, and he should’ve received an Academy Award nomination for his aggressive, foul-mouthed, take-no-prisoners performance. All of the actors disappear into their roles, though.

A very common complaint about Full Metal Jacket is that the first part of the movie, set in boot camp, is superior to the rest of the flick, set in South Vietnam. I agree that the training sequences are better than the scenes set in the war zone, but the latter parts are certainly no slouches. The gripping intensity of the first act or so only partially transfers over to the scenes related to the Tet Offensive, but the combat segments are still impossible to turn away from.

So, in my opinion, Full Metal Jacket is not quite the tale of two films that some make it out to be. The war-related scenes, which generally put an emphasis on sweeping, meticulous, Kubrickian cinematography over the choreography of actors and stuntpeople, are phenomenal, even if the best stuff has already passed in the runtime. This is one of those war movies that is required viewing for all fans of the genre, thanks to its skillful combination of humor and horror.

My rating is 9 outta 10.

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