By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Most war flicks follow a standard and traditional formula – 90 minutes of carnage, destruction and death, whilst portraying the heroics of US soldiers embroiled in one war or another. “Jarhead,” though billed as another war flick takes on a different approach. Adapted from Anthony Swofford’s controversial Gulf War I memoir, “Jarhead,” a slang for marines whose crew-cut heads resemble jars, offers an intimate look at Marine life during the Gulf War. It chronicles the trials of a young man who spends months of anxiety prepping for a war he never gets to fight in, and is narrated by Swofford (played by Gyllenhaal), a third-generation enlistee who reluctantly joined the military because of his father’s distinguished service in Vietnam.
The movie mainly takes place in the Kuwaiti desert and successfully captures the tedium and impatience of its characters,
all of whom are on tentacles waiting for months for Operation Desert Storm whilst camped out on the Saudi border. With no enemy to fight, the heavy banters and jokes revolve around sex and the wives and girlfriends left behind. Conflicts turn inward and squabbles break out as the bunch of bored, boisterous troops – up to 360,000 in total await a pending war. Although tedious to watch – it drags on pointlessly, in its defense “Jarhead” gave a nice insight to gritty marine life and offers great cinematography amidst some great old school rap and hip-hop. There is plenty of crass and crude humor and simulated gay sex as the troops grow increasingly disillusioned with their mission. Foxx is charismatic as the spewing staff Sergeant Sykes, a lifer who passionately loves his job and is quick to dish out cruel punishments for disobedient troops, like forcing them to play football in 112-degree desert heat whilst cladding chemical suits and masks. Other soldiers include the intellectually challenged Fowler (Evan Jones), the geeky Fergus (Brian Geraghty), the expectant father Cortez (Jacob Vargas) and the Cuban-American Escobar (Laz Alonso).
Although the primary audience for this movie is male, the film does capture the surreal essence of war, but overall isn’t worth the hype.