Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, Matthew Modine, Lee Ermey
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

I hate to sound like most every other critic who’s ever written about Stanley Kubrick’s ’Full Metal Jacket’, but the second-half of the film truly pales in comparison to the first-half. For the first 45-minutes, we are treated to a glimpse into the hell which is Marine Boot Camp. This portion of the movie show us how the mental tactics used to create conformist soldiers can sometimes backfire, with tragic results. Kubrick dismisses with a traditional opening, and simply throws the viewer directly into the basic training along with the soldiers, like Joker (Matthew Modine), Gomer Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio), and Cowboy (Arliss Howard). Under the command of their sadistic Drill Instructor (Lee Ermey), we watch these men slowly become soldiers and monsters. While we’ve seen boot camp in other films, ’Full Metal Jacket’ presents with a unique and terrifying view of this process.

But, when the film shifts to Vietnam, the movie loses much of its originality, and begins to look like any other war movie. We follow Joker to Vietnam, where he is now a reporter for ’Stars & Stripes’. He’s sent on assignment and comes across Cowboy and his platoon. Soon, this group finds themselves under siege in a bombed-out city and must work together to survive. Even, the ending, which is supposed to be shocking, comes across as stale. The battle scenes are presented realistically, but hold little drama, and the acting feels sterile at times. The black humor in the latter half of the film is a welcome relief following the harrowing first chapter, but it too, comes across as muddled. An implied ’war is hell’ message becomes overshadowed by the precedings, and Kubrick’s initial intent is questionable when all is said and done. ’Full Metal Jacket’ definitely has some powerful scenes, most of which come in the first 45-minutes, but it is definitely not Kubrick’s best film.

’Full Metal Jacket’ is being re-released on DVD in a newly remastered edition from Warner Home Video. As with the previous edition, the movie is presented full-frame, just as the director intended. But, the image presented in this new digital transfer is definitely an improvement. The picture is very sharp and clear, showing little grain and no overt noise. The image shows no distortion with showing horizontal lines, and the picture is stable throughout. While ’Full Metal Jacket’ isn’t the most colorful film ever, the colors here are reproduced very well, most notably the signs in Da Nang and the orange floor in the barracks. Needless to say, this transfer is an improvement over the previous release. Also better is the newly mastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. While this track is a little light on the surround sound, it does offer clear dialogue and no distortion. The rear channels are used mostly for musical cues and major sound effects, but the battle scenes do sound very nice. The soundfield isn’t very wide, but once again, this is better than the previous 2-channel soundtrack.

The only extra feature on the DVD is the theatrical trailer for ’Full Metal Jacket’, which is presented full-frame. It’s worth noting that this trailer is mostly made up with footage from the ’Vietnam’ portion of the film.