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Jarhead - DVD Review

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</script></div>{/googleAds}In his book Jarhead, U.S. Marine turned New York Times best selling author Anthony Swofford summarizes the life of a foot soldier serving in the Persian Gulf War, when he says "the grunt's life is much different than what the general public supposes. It's a mixture of boredom, excitement, fear, longing, sadness, and the need to have listeners." Noticeably missing from the list are uber-manly words that we civilians incorrectly associate with soldiers who fight in war. Words like "grit", "doggedness", "determination", "spirit", and "fortitude." Such is the message in Jarhead, William Broyles, Jr.'s screen adaptation of Swofford's memoirs.

Sam Mendes's Jarhead is both startlingly authentic and inconceivably surreal. But it's not like most war movies in that it doesn't focus on a particular battle or on a specific turning point in a military campaign. In fact, it features almost no fighting at all. Told from the first person point of view of Marine sniper Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) stationed in Saudi Arabia during the build-up to Operation Desert Storm, we learn that war is not really what any of us think it is. And soldiers are not really who we think they are. Swofford and his platoon-mates are not ironclad, soulless fighting machines dressed in sweaty desert fatigues. They're vulnerable and they're sensitive, but most importantly, they're kids from various walks of life, shipping off to fight for you and me.

Following in the footsteps of his father who served in Viet Nam, Swofford enlists in the Marines "after making a wrong-turn on the way to college." He has an attractive girlfriend back home, his sister is institutionalized, his mother drinks, and his father rarely talks about anything. He's at a crossroads in his life, and is trying to deal with and discover who he is. After surviving boot camp, Swofford is partnered with Troy (Peter Sarsgaard) a somewhat more docile, calculating marine whose unruffled exterior masks a stormy and volatile past. Together, the two take advantage of the opportunity to advance from being "grunts" to becoming an elite sniper/scout unit. Swofford says in voice-over, "The grunt fights for 15,000 poorly placed rounds; the sniper dies for that one perfect shot."

Rounding out Swofford's Surveillance and Acquisition team is a gaggle of fellow jarheads from various backgrounds and differing cultures. You've seen them before - the country boy, the nerdy philosopher and the dangerous lunatic with the hair trigger mentality. But atypical of the classic imagery of gung-ho soldiers who train 24-hours a day, waiting to get the call, are Mendes's recruits who have an affinity for loud music, a fondness for masturbation, and a healthy appetite for enemy blood. The audience feels a lovable attraction towards these guys despite their reckless and self-destructive behavior. Perhaps it comes from an innate pity brought about by the fact that we know what they don't know - that these young kids will eventually be called into battle.

Jamie Foxx is mostly wasted as Staff Sergeant Sykes, the military lifer who likes his job a little too much. He doesn't offer much more than what we've seen before in the prototypical gruff and burly sergeant who flails and spits while screaming obscenities at his young recruits. Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, is a rock as the centerpiece of a war movie that is more about people than it is about machines of war.

There's nothing joyous of triumphant about watching Jarhead. Without a real sense of danger, it's not as impactful as Apocalypse Now, nor does it have the pure entertainment value of Three Kings. But Mendes succeeds at what he sets out to do. Jarhead is a subjective interpretation of actual events that creates a version of the Persian Gulf War we've never seen. It's the story of a group of young men who join the Marine Corps in hopes of finding a place for themselves in life. But in the end, they probably discover more about the life inside themselves.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; deleted scenes; news interviews.

* Audio Commentary -
o 1. With director Sam Mendes
o 2. With Screenwriter William Broyles and book author Anthony Swofford
* Deleted Scenes
o A total of 11 deleted scenes (total 19 minutes) with optional commentary by Mendes and editor Edward Murch.
* Featurettes -
o Jarhead Diaries - a collection of video diaries
o Background - look sat the real U.S. Marines who made an appearance in the film.
o Semper Fi: Life After the Corps - with Swofford and Laura Nix as they interview Marines about going back into civilian life.

Number of discs: - 2 - Keepcase Packaging.


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