Full Metal Jacket Paper

715 words | 3 page(s)

Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” is structurally divided into two distinct parts: during the first segment, the cast of Marines in the movie are at boot camp on Parris Island, and in the second segment, the Marines are heavily involved in combat in Vietnam. The movie contains many of the absurdities of war, such as the vision of one of the Marines, Private Joker, wearing a peace symbol around his neck while the words on his helmet say “Born to Kill.” The structure of the film varies from a narrative progression to much more fragmented sequences taking place on the battlefield. While the film it may be seen as a recruitment tool for the service, likewise it may leave one feeling sick at heart, and decidedly against war and all battlefields which put human beings in the positions that we see in “Full Metal Jacket.”

There are only a few characters who are portrayed in a way that creates even an appearance of psychological distinctiveness. Private Joker is a wiseguy, and a simple redneck type character named Pyle, whose continual screw ups cause him to be the focus of Sgt. Hartman’s brutal punishments. Eventually, the bullying of Pyle spreads to his own comrades as well, and he ultimately goes insane and kills Hartman. As a military leader, Hartman treats the men with brutality in an effort to create good soldiers. The men sleep with their rifles, naming them with women’s names, and frequently sing silly ditties and other songs that contradict the seriousness of what they are being transformed into: killing machines.

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The film then cuts to Vietnam, when the film’s structure becomes loose and disordered so that the narrative drifts aside, leaving the viewer watching the sequences which are at times difficult to connect or react to. The sequencing that occurs while in Da Nang starts out lacking drama, but builds up to a crescendo of violence; after a violent assault, a television crew shoots the characters speaking directly into the camera as if they were being interviewed for a Broadway play about the War. During the final moments of the movie, the progression of the narrative resumes when the Lusthogs are patrolling the streets and find themselves under assault by an unseen sniper who is actually a teenage girl. Kubrick’s style at that point is almost slow-motion, for when the girl is finally shot down, she takes quite a bit of time to die, and eventually the Joker and her suffering by shooting her through the head. Afterwards, the soldiers are seen at night marching against the backdrop of a flaming landscape, and are singing the theme song from the Mickey Mouse Club. Kubrick throughout the film uses the juxtaposition of the horrors of war with absurdity in this way, as he did with Joker’s peace symbol/helmet.

The question of whether or not the film is an antiwar movie or whether it glorifies the glory of battle and comradeship between soldiers in a way that encourages people to join the military is an open debate. Many of the characters who play the Marines and their leaders demonstrate contradictory traits such as being realistic at times, outrageous at other times, worthy of sympathy but also shocking in their cruelty. The leaders of the Army, as well, are presented as intolerant and unjust, capable of completely humiliating the troops under their charge, in an effort to toughen them up to become good soldiers and are not completely unworthy of some understanding given their difficult task.. Hartman appears to be at times cool and in other times, almost likable but after he is shot by Pyle, the film changes structurally and psychologically. Pyle himself turns into a ruthless killer who is carrying out his mission to destroy anyone who gets in his way, or is perceived as an enemy, or who threatens he and his comrades.

Although Kubrick uses the camera differently to have the effect of shooting from within various scenes while alternating with shots from the external viewpoint, his purpose is always effective in uncovering the impossible situations in which these Marines find themselves. Both segments of the film are headed towards one endpoint, i.e. the meeting with another human being whose face has turned into a face of war which reflect death.

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