Jarhead (2005) – Welcome to the Suck

Every war is different but every war is the same. We fight war many times in our lives. There are those who fight with the aim of protecting their families. But, there are also those who fight just for a number of reasons. In a nutshell, everyone has their own war. Sam Mendes‘ “Jarhead” in my opinion is a misconception of a war movie. It’s different from what they want in war films. We want some action, not some group who goes around on the desert. But, is that really what I say? Actually, it’s not.

“Jarhead” is about what makes someone in that war. When talking about war films, this is one of it which confuses various views. It has nothing to do with the film itself. Some people will say that this is a propaganda movie. They try to connect something non-sense like politic or something like that. Peter Sarsgaard as Alan Troy quotes: “F*ck politics. We’re here. All the rest is bullsh*t.” From a story written by a former American soldier, Anthony Swofford, “Jarhead” is a war film with the impression of being ‘monotonous’ but not overly concern with the war itself. It’s about how someone can be in a truly serious circumstance yet not according to what are we just expect.

Actually, I don’t really like when connecting something that really has nothing to do with anything. Whether it’s indeed this film discusses the theme but that isn’t such the case. You know, I also hate when I see someone trying to connect films with things that have nothing to do with the film. It contains an empty debate and endless circle. “Jarhead” is a story about the other side of everyday life soldiers who served in the Gulf war. This film doesn’t rely too much on the heroism elements. Same as those movies such as “Full Metal Jacket,” “Apocalypse Now,” and “The Deer Hunter.” However, this film does have a little resemblance to Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” from its storytelling starting from training camp to war which is not a war.

Just like “Full Metal Jacket,” this film focuses more on the conditions of psychological breakdown and the various dilemmas. In addition, they’re also young people who have high expectations of how the war itself. How it feels if one time triggers their rifle and succeeds in killing the target, how it feels from such a feeling. Actually, it’s not that easy. The story focuses on Anthony Swofford played by Jake Gyllenhaal narrating how he so regretted to join the Marine Corps. Initially, the college was a further education but his father, who was a veteran, didn’t want his son to go to college. He confessed how his remorse turned into something completely different when he was in the house alone but the war wasn’t a true essence yet it’s about friendship.

There is Peter Sarsgaard as Alan Troy who has undergone training as a sniper unit under the direction of Sgt Staff. Sykes played by Jamie Foxx along with Swofford. Jamie Foxx as Sgt. Sykes was truly an idealistic character and disciplined. One thing is certain by Sgt. Sykes, he really liked his job. What’s important, they all know that they are still soldiers who’ve to participate into a battlefield to protect their country in a high-temperature location. In a desert without someone waiting, someone waiting to be killed, and triggering a weapon. There’s not much they can do other than spend time like masturbating, playing football using gas masks, masturbating again, watching movies, and so on.

This film leaves an impression of what the ‘war’ film itself is. “The Thin Red Line” focuses more on the perspectives of those who participated in the war so that the film raises many ambiguous questions rather than other war films which show elements of heroism or others. What I like about “Jarhead” is how a situation can turn out into you don’t need to be afraid of. You jump into war, not even pressing the trigger from your rifle can make you safe in war. But how can it be?

“Jarhead” also focuses more on the small details of how the war actually carried out by the people in this film, especially Swofford himself. There are moments when they are watching “Apocalypse Now” shouting because the image of war is what they want in this film. But they don’t have much to do but sleep or playing football. They only took the impression of the boredom so they got a pointless fight.

In addition to focusing on the small details, the film focuses more on a mental breakdown and psychology. Even though they had undergone a heavy military, their instincts when they once saw the real events of war became uncontrolled. Some panicked, scared, not based on common sense decisions, even Jake Gyllenhaal himself pissed in his pants. The film left a very high expectation for the soldiers in the face of Saddam Hussein’s invasion in Kuwait. However, they were guarding the Saudi family oil fields so that the many conditions in the dilemma. It made them have to endure and face enemies within themselves. Frustration, lack of confidence, being at the lowest point of morality, even the effects outside the war itself. A wife who gave birth is cheating and all not only affect themselves but people who wait for them at home.

The directing of Sam Mendes in this film is so fantastic and gorgeous. Aside from directing “American Beauty” which is a fantastic debut and a masterpiece, it’s so fantastic describing the impressions of the desert which is full of nothing. He sometimes takes a picture that is rather far away so that the mirage effect appears. He showed a perspective that was so bright with vague colors but left a monochromatic impression as if it were in a real desert.

The movie also reminds me a little of David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia.” The cinematography by Roger Deakins also made it all come into sight with different impressions than the war film. This film is more realistic and shows the perspective of the real war. I also love Thomas Newman’s score in this movie where it brings out its own unique impressions. That raining oil too is one of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen.

“Jarhead” is a misconception of the war film itself. Indeed, this isn’t one of the war films where the audience wants to see war or action full of explosions or battlegrounds. It’s a movie that failed to be understood by some of the mainstream audiences. Every war is different, every war is the same, and every man fights his own war. At the end of the film, there is a moment when all the soldiers returning to the home on the bus and are welcomed by American. However, one of the veterans wanted to join the bus. What made me so touched in that scene was the expression from the veteran.

It fills with sadness but irony. Even though there aren’t too many backgrounds that we know of its character, it’s just enough why we immediately understand. Swofford’s idealism gave rise to the true taste of what war was. In fact, part of life can also be used as a weapon and war itself. Sam Mendes with such fantastic directing, Roger Deakins, Jake Gyllenhaal with such a crazy performance, Jamie Foxx too, Scott MacDonald even though only a small part but very slick and so insane, and Peter Sarsgaard with characters who put a burden. “Jarhead” is at least not a film that carries political or propaganda elements. Just like what Alan Troy said.

4 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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