Jarhead offers realistic view
December 2, 2005
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Jarhead is summarized in one line from the film where Troy, played by Peter Sarsgaard, says “To hell with politics. We’re here now.” Arguing about whether or not the new war film Jarhead has a politically loaded message is not only a waste of time, it misses the point. But while it doesn’t thrust a political agenda in viewers’ faces, the film has an important message about the realities of war, and the film is more grounded in reality than your average war movie. In a time when the genre consists of little more than blow em’ up, save the dying hero action flicks, Jarhead puts war into perspective.
Screenwriter William Broyles Jr. (Cast Away, Unfaithful) and director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) adopted the film from the autobiographical book Jarhead written by Anthony Swofford. They have been true to the material, making the film a big screen rendition of the very personal account of Swofford’s time spent as a Marine. The book is not a political work, and by not incorporating an agenda into the film, Broyles and Mendes have preserved the essence of Swofford’s work.
“It’s not necessary to draw everything out for the audience. You can draw your own conclusions as to the good, bad, and ugly of it all,” said director Sam Mendes about whether the film had political overtones, according to HollywoodMovies.com. “Jarhead is more interested in showing you what’s normally hidden to the civilian eye.”
Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, The Good Girl) plays the leading role, Anthony Swofford. As in the book, Anthony narrates the plot of the movie. Jamie Fox stars as a “bad-ass” drill sergeant who enjoys what he does and can not imagine doing anything but serving his country. Fox’s performance is a major key in what makes Jarhead leap out of the screen and grab your attention. His acting should appeal to everybody who sees the film.
The film follows, from Anthony’s perspective, his journey from high school, through boot camp, to the Gulf War, where he is eventually deployed. Jarhead’s plot is not unusual. The film finds its power not in the story it tells, but in the way that story is told: the realism in this story of an average Marine is true to the stories of most individuals in the armed forces. Jarhead has very few battle scenes or combat action, and it is a more realistic and powerful film for it.
The message Jarhead wants to get across is rather obvious after its first hour: many people do not know what really goes on in the armed forces because of the distorted media accounts. Jarhead wants to give the viewer a first hand look at what individuals go through, not only in training, but also in battle, and after serving in the military.
I certainly would recommend this film to anyone, conservative, liberal, veteran, or an average Joe. Jarhead portrays the lives of Americans serving our country and is as unbiased movie as I have ever seen. It defies the clichs of superman-like soldiers that most movies portray as the men and women of our armed forces.
“This is the most realistic war movie, start to finish, I have ever seen,” said former Marine Sergeant Michael Stantz, whom I talked to after watching the film. “It was like I was right back there in boot camp yelling at our fresh recruits, then watching them walk off to battle as I watched another crop come right in.”