Jarhead (15)

Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by Anthony Swofford (book) and William Broyles Jr (screenplay)
On general release from 13th January 2005

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Jarhead - taking its title from a slang term for an American Marine - proved to be a disappointment, lacking a clear purpose or theme.

It concentrates on the experiences of twenty-year-old sniper Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal), from boot camp in 1989 to serving in the massive American troop deployment - numbering over half a million - based in Iraq during the first Gulf War in 1991.

Despite the hardships that he and the rest of the soldiers endured - notably bouts of homesickness, the numbing boredom, searing heat, and the threat of Iraq soldiers using biological and chemical weapons - the film failed to engage me with their misfortune.

Perhaps watching people being bored is not conducive to being entertained.

Apart from a few references to oil, director Sam Mendes (American Beauty and Road to Perdition) brings few of the political issues to the fore in what led to the conflict, and you never see very few Iraqis, except those part of a refugee convoy burnt to a cinder on the road to Basra. The photographs published at the time of the carnage were stomach-churning, but Mendes has prettified the abject horror, and in some ways gives the images a perverse sense of beauty.

One major plus point from the film was Roger Deakins’ cinematography, particularly the shimmering shots of American troops walking through the desert and the stunning sunsets he captured. Magnificent stuff.

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