Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Welcome to the suck. 6 months of waiting for 4 days of "battle". Finally a decent yet different war genre movie set during the first Gulf War, which featured what was touted by Saddam as the Mother of All Battles, not. Jarhead is based upon the book by former Marine Anthony Swofford, on his experiences in the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations.

But we start the journey from the beginning, at the boot camp, and that, to many NS men, will bring back fond memories of the BMT days when nasty drill sergeants rained down vulgarity filled commands, and punishments meted out from whims and fancies. You'll chuckle wholeheartedly, but of course not when you're at the receiving end. The burly platoon mates, the sexual innuendos, the male bonding sessions in the bunks, the various antics, the talk-cock sessions; nostalgic I tell you.

Jake Gyllenhaal, who seemed all over the local screens this early 2006 with Proof, Jarhead and the upcoming Brokeback Mountain, plays Swoff, a Marine Scout Sniper whose perspective we see the War from. He's no angel though, as we witness his trials and tribulations in the United States Marine Corps sent to the Middle East. The supporting cast of Peter Sarsaard as his buddy, and Jamie Foxx (in another military role after the disappointing outing in Stealth) help lift the movie with their fine performances.

What appeals in this movie, the strong points, are the numerous elements that are identifiable with Gulf War I - the friendly fire, the air strikes, the looming threat of chemical warfare, the television coverage and interviews with troops you see so very often over CNN, the dubious anti-chemical agent pills, the oil well fires, and the smokin' civilian convoys. They're all there in the narrative, played out as it is.

We also look into the difficulties the men face when stuck out there in a different land, in an indefinite period of waiting - the loneliness, the worry of their loved ones being unfaithful, the rush to wait and the wait to rush, the time offs, the duties, training, massive water hydration parades, and even the hand jobs to past time. Naturally we do see certain bits that fell victim to the censor's scissors, but somehow I'm not really complaining.

And the cinematography is brilliant. With the aid of digital effects, the desert never looked so blinding in the day, and so alluring in the night. The oil-fire smoke-filled night sky looked awesome, and so real, you could feel the heat and the oil droplets raining from above. And the pop music interjected at various points in the movie, is just groovy and adds to the flavour.

However, at certain points this movie cuts a bit too close to Apocalypse Now with scenes of war machinery cutting its way through the desert land, and in scenes where the troops go beserk in their chilling and celebration, though an earlier scene somehow prepared you for its upcoming similarities. Also what I thought was a minor technical boo-boo, keep a look out for the dust covers on the rifles. Hmm.

This is my recommended movie for the week to all NS personnel; you'll definitely find something you'll identify with. And to the rest of the folks, never mind about the war setting, this is one intense drama that might just appeal to you. Welcome to the suck.

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