The story of an 18-year-old marine recruit named Private Joker - from his carnage-and-machismo boot camp to his climactic involvement in the heavy fighting in Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive.
After five years spent making 'The Shining', Stanley Kubrick decided to venture once again into the war genre. This time, the focus is on the Vietnam war in 1967, centering on a group of marines going through intense bootcamp and traveling overseas to fight. Adapted from Gustav Harsford's book 'The Short Timers', Kubrick has concocted a masterpiece of war with deep themes of humanity and the struggles to be good and evil. The film itself plays out like a two-act play with half of the film taking place inside the first day of bootcamp, going through graduation. The latter half is war itself as we follow one particular marine with the handle of 'Joker' (Matthew Modine).
Set to the excellent music of the 60s, we see America's youths getting every strand of hair from the hair cut off. I think Kubrick wanted to show us how our humanity is basically stripped and taken away once we enter the military so we can be reborn and trained again as a vicious killer in order to keep the peace. It's quite ironic, as 'Joker' states in the middle of the film when he is questioned on why he has a peace symbol on his marine helmet. He answers with, "It's supposed to suggest the duality of man."
And Kubrick wanted to show Joker's journey as he sees both the good and bad in humanity. A lot of people say that the first half of the film that takes place at bootcamp is the better part of the film if not the only part of the film you need to watch. And while it is quite fun to watch Gunnery Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) yell at everyone for the better part of an hour, the actual war shows us just how some marines take to the atrocities of war. Some are sadistic, some are funny, and some are cautious.
But when faced with the most extreme circumstances, our basic human instincts are usually the same. It's what keeps us moving forward as Kubrick shows in the final moments of this brilliant war film. And Kubrick's inclusion of all the actual Mickey Mouse songs and props were genius throughout the film. It was a subtle way to show us that in fact the marines thought this war and evil was indeed crap, hence the term Mickey Mouse was used as slang to describe something as amateur. And add to that all the marching and singing in the Mickey Mouse Show and it standing for American, Kubrick was on to something here, showing us through visuals and singing this theme song what we all really thought of the war as an entire city burns to the ground.
It's truly a remarkable film with some damn fine performances by Modine and Ermey, but a little known actor at the time by the name of Vincent D'Onofrio delivers one of the best performances of that year and is still most recognized for this movie today (other than playing Thor in 'Adventures in Babysitting'). But his character Pvt. Pyle goes through such an intense time, that D'Onofrio transforms into something unrecognizable from when we first meet him with a smile he can't seem to remove. It's one of the more powerful scenes in cinema when we see Pvt. Pyle for the last time. 'Full Metal Jacket' is an intense yet darkly funny war film that continues to force us to question the duality of man as Joker so delicately put it. And Kubrick's camerawork, once again is the best there is.
'Full Metal Jacket' comes with an excellent 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is by far the best this film has ever looked. The past DVD and Blu-ray releases up until a couple of years ago have not been the best video presentations of the film. They were riddled with all kinds of issues. But those seem to have been all fixed as of two years ago and this video presentation was taken from the fixed transfer. This brilliant war film looks amazing, from the confines of the Marine barracks to the war torn villages in Vietnam, it all looks excellent.
Detail is sharp and vivid, revealing excellent closeups that show individual hairs, wrinkles, specks of dirt and mud, and stitching in the military uniforms. There is still a very fine layer of grain here, giving the image a great filmic and organic look and not the digital car-wash look. Colors are vibrant and pop of screen, even with its army greens and browns trenching through the muck. Skin tones are natural and the black levels are very deep and inky. There were no issues or problems with this release other than a few minor instances of some halos, but it's nothing to write home about. This is a great looking film on all levels and deserves high marks.
There are a tone of audio options here in different languages with great subtitles that are easy to follow. The two main audio options are English with your choice of a lossless Dolby Digital 5.1 or an uncompressed LPCM 5.1 audio mix. I'm so glad to have two options here in 5.1, considering this film originally had a mono mix. It's quite nice to have all the sounds of war, gunshots, screams, explosions, and chatter come through the rear speakers. While it won't compete with the absurdity or craziness of a Michael Bay film, the audio still is lively, robust, and loud.
The sound effects are realistic and fine tuned as to not sound over bearing or shrieking, but to pack just enough punch. Ambient noises also sound great here too. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and never suffers from any pops, cracks, or hisses. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range is wide. The score and soundtrack is a real treat too, while never drowning out any of the other aspects of this audio presentation, which receives high marks.
Audio Commentary With Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, and Jay Cocks - It's great to have a commentary with three actors from the film and the author and screenwriter, but they were all recorded separately and the track never really gets off its feet. All four people seem to have had a different experience on the set of the film and working with Kubrick, but after the boot camp sequence, two of the four people are no longer heard. Not the best commentary track, but decent.
'Full Metal Jacket': Between Good and Evil (HD, 31 Mins.) - Here are tons of interviews with Matthew Modine and the rest of the cast, discussing the making of the film, working on location, Kubrick, the themes, and characters. Excellent stuff here.
Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
'Full Metal Jacket' is one of the great war films that you could ever see and probably the most unforgettable. Stanley Kubrick showed us the devastation and horrors in such a beautiful way that you can't stop watching. These iconic characters will grow on you in a quick period of time and the dialogue (for better or worse), will be quoted for many years to come. The video and audio is a definite upgrade from previous releases and the new extra is excellent. Highly Recommended!