In this riveting look at military life during the Vietnam conflict, Stanley Kubrick, who made the powerful antiwar classics PATHS OF GLORY (WWI) and DR. STRANGELOVE (the Cold War), once again explores the behavior of men in battle. FULL METAL JACKET (1987), adapted from Gustav Hasford's novel THE SHORT TIMERS, is broken down into two very different parts. The first half of the film focuses on the training of a squad of Marine grunts on Parris Island, and more specifically on the troubled relationship between the brutal drill sergeant (a frightening Lee Ermey) and an oafish misfit (a brilliant Vincent D'Onofrio) who just happens to be a sharpshooter. The second half takes the grunts to Hue City, where the climactic battle of the 1968 Tet Offensive--and the turning point of the Vietnam War--took place. The story is told through the eyes of Private Joker (Matthew Modine), a cynical aspiring photojournalist who is forced to fight for his life and the lives of his fellow recruits. Unusually for Kubrick, FULL METAL JACKET emerged at a time when a trend for films about Vietnam was in full swing. PLATOON had proceeded Kubrick's film by a year, and lesser efforts such as HAMBURGER HILL also emerged in 1987. London's abandoned docklands may not be the most obvious choice of location to replicate the ravages of the Vietnam landscape, but this is where Kubrick shot the film, sticking to his dogged principles of not shooting outside his adopted home. A moving commentary on the dehumanizing process that occurs when soldiers prepare and engage in battle, FULL METAL JACKET is an unforgettable experience from one of the most original voices to ever pick up a movie camera.
Main Cast & Crew:
Stanley Kubrick - Director
R. Lee Ermey
Kevyn Major Howard
- Format: DVD (New Box Art)
- Run Time: 117
- Color Format: Color
- UPC: 085391163114
- Genre: War
- Rating: R (MPAA) (for violence)
- Release Date: June 1999
Based on Gustav Hasford's novel THE SHORT TIMERS, Kubrick's unusual answer to the 1980s spate of Vietnam War films (PLATOON, HAMBURGER HILL, 84 CHARLIE MOPIC, etc.) actually seems like two films in one. The first half focuses on the training of a squad of Marine grunts on Parris Island, and more specifically on the troubled relationship between the brutal drill sergeant (Ermey) and an oafish misfit (a brilliant D'Onofrio) who just happens to be a sharpshooter. Post-training, we follow the grunts to battle of Hue City, the climactic battle of the 1968 Tet Offensive and the turning point of the Vietnam War, seeing mostly through the eyes of a cynical reporter nicknamed Joker (Modine). As a Vietnam War film, Kubrick's is notable for focusing on urban, rather than jungle, battlefields--with snipers hiding behind every bombed-out building.
Although the credits claim that the film was shot "on location and at Pinewood Studios, Iver, Bucks," it has been reported that the film was entirely shot in England, at a military training camp in Bassingbourne and at Enfield and Beckton. The bombed-out buildings were on a site outside of London that was owned by British gas; it had been scheduled for demolition, so Kubrick had it blown up and then used as a set. Lee Ermey served as the technical adviser on the film; Kubrick liked him so much he hired him for the part of Gny. Sgt. Hartman. The film features excellent use of such 1960s classics as "These Boots Are Made for Walking" by Nancy Sinatra, "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, "Surfin' Bird" by the Trashmen, "Chapel of Love" by the Dixie Cups, and "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones; Kubrick told Rolling Stone magazine, "We were looking for interesting material that played well with a scene. We tried a lot of songs. Sometimes the dynamic range of the music was too great, and we couldn't work in dialogue. The music has to come up under speech at some point, and if all you hear is the bass, it's not going to work in the context of the movie....The choices weren't arbitrary." The name of Sam the Sham's backup group is mistakenly spelled Pharoahs in the closing credits. The part of Pvt. Joker was originally going to be played by Anthony Michael Hall before going to Matthew Modine. Estimated budget: $17 million. Vincent D'Onofrio put on 70 pounds in order to portray Pvt. Pyle. Filming was so difficult that when Kubrick asked his actors for volunteers to die early, nearly everyone raised their hand. Lee Ermey got into a car accident during filming, resulting in broken ribs. Watching the movie closely, one can see certain scenes in which he never uses his arms, because of the injury. He also missed four and a half months of shooting. Most of ths insults hurled by Ermey came directly from him, not from the original script. Kubrick spent 10 months cutting FULL METAL JACKET. A full metal jacket refers to a rifle cartridge.
"...Harrowing, beautiful and characteristically eccentric....The performances are splendid..." - 06/26/1987 New York Times, p.C3
Included in the New York Times "10 Best Films of 1987" - 12/27/1987 New York Times, p.II, 23
"...An intense, schematic, superbly made Vietnam War drama..." - 06/24/1987 Variety
"...A powerful and centered statement of outrage....It is a muscular return to form..." - 06/26/1987 Los Angeles Times, p.C1
"The picture looks like it was shot in the 70s, which is suitable for the setting of the storytelling." - 07/01/2006 Widescreen Review, p.66
"[A] chilling, darkly funny, brutal and unforgettable masterpiece." - 05/22/2020 Chicago Sun-Times