Jarhead (2005)

Genres - Drama, War  |   Sub-Genres - War Drama, Biopic [feature]  |   Release Date - Nov 4, 2005 (USA)  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - Germany , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Sam Mendes' Jarhead does not tell a new story. Countless other films have shown how war affects soldiers. Mendes is savvy enough to know this and goes so far as to reference Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now early in the film almost as a way of admitting how pedestrian his basic story is. What sets this film apart is that although the story is old, the characters are new. The characters played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard become real people over the course of the film, making their experiences all the more compelling to an audience. In addition to developing a pair of specific characters, the film smartly teaches the audience more than a few aspects of what daily life was like during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The film demonstrates the pent-up energy of young men not allowed the release of either sex or war. The soldier's unique war experience is expressed beautifully in the film's final act when, once the men actually get close to real combat, cinematographer Roger Deakins lights the film by the shifting light from fires that burn in sabotaged oil fields. There has never been a film sequence that looks like that one does, just as there has never been a war film quite like Jarhead. The film lacks profundity, but it does contain a specificity that makes it a compelling experience.