Go See JarheadbyGoldeniangel©
If there is one movie out this year that I think everyone should have to see, it is most definitely "Jarhead". Touching, thought-provoking, and seemingly without an underlying agenda, it is one of the movies that has hit closest to home for me this year in terms of everything that's been going on with politics and war. Jake Gyllenhaal and Jamie Foxx are amazing. I knew that Jamie Foxx was good ever since Ray, but I had no idea how well Jake Gyllenhaal would step up to the plate. He tore my heart to pieces, aching for him and all the pain he was going through, while still managing to remain human, optimistic, chaotic, bullying, sweet... all the idiosyncrasies and hypocrisies that is human nature.
Within the first few minutes of the movie, I was both amused and appalled. My friend sitting next to me, who has served in the army (although not the U.S. army, she's from Israel) was muttering alternatively, "It's nothing like that..." and "Oh I remember THAT..." It's the usual beginning - brutal officer, task-master, abusing the new recruits, making them regret that they ever signed up to be in the army. And of course, Jake Gyllenhaal's character has to respond by mouthing back, and taking the physical abuse back.
We see him at his most innocent and vulnerable, young and uppity before war, violence or despair have ever really touched him. He gazes softly at the pictures of his girlfriend that he's got with him, already missing her even though he just got to training.
And then he's chosen to become an elite part of the Marines, the snipers. We learn the meaning of Jarhead - watch the movie if you want to know because I think you should watch it anyway, and it's much more powerful when you can hear them chanting it rather than me just writing it - we listen to their mantras, see their training, feel their pain. When a young recruit freaks out during a training exercise, he stands up to get away, even though he's been told to stay down because live weapons are being shot over their heads to get them used to the sound. Ignoring the warnings, he gets hysterical, stands... and then slumps again. Shot, accidently dead before he could get anywhere near real fighting. One of those sad stories that you rarely hear in the news because no one wants to know that our soldiers could die without fighting, without getting near the fight.
You sit there, wondering if things like that really happening. Watching in stark horror, along with the man's fellow recruits... and then you see his dead face and realize that he couldn't have been more than 20. Jamie Foxx, as their Staff Sargent, starts flipping, cursing, upset that he's lost one of his. Not just because it reflects bad on him, but because he blames himself - he chose the young men who would be trying to become snipers, and he obviously made a bad choice. And if he hadn't made that choice, one young man would still be alive. So he curses and screams and then starts yelling at the corpse that he should have listened to the warnings. It's one of those moments where you laugh because a macabre part of you finds it funny, and then you hate yourself for laughing.
And no, I haven't ruined anything for you, all of this occurs within the first half hour of the movie.
The rest of the film is done almost as a documentary, letting you know how many days they've been in the desert, how many troops are there. It's so realistic, so life-like, and you wonder how much of it is completely true. Are our boys really told that they can't say certain things to the press? That they HAVE to endorse their fighting to the media? Are they really coerced to work in appalling conditions as punishment? Do they really flip out to the point where one of them will press a loaded rifle to his friend's head, screaming their mantra at him over and over again until they both break down crying? How badly do they want to kill someone? Badly enough that they'll attack a ranking officer because he tells them to stand down after they've gotten permission to take out their target? Badly enough that they'll sit in a corner, crying and sobbing because they were robbed of their chance to take another human's life?
And yet there are the moments where you're rolling on the floor laughing, because boys will be boys and there are so many manly funny moments in the movie. They are so comfortable together with so much camaraderie, so much support for each other, so much love. You can't help but feel like they're just one big happy family of brothers... most of the time anyway. They have to trust each other with their lives, and they do. One of my favorite moments of the movie was when the media was visiting the boys out in the desert and after a long period of doing everything their Staff Sargent tells them to, to impress the reporters, they finally get tired of it and Jake yells out "FIELD FUCK!" All the guys start whooping and hollering and stripping off their clothes, getting into sexually explicit positions (still clothed in the important areas) while their Staff Sargent hastily shoves the reporters on their way. It's a rollicking good time.
It's one of those movies that reaches down and pulls at something in you, whether because you've known someone who's served in the armed forces before or you know someone who serves in it now. And you wonder how brutal, how considerate, how inconsistent people can be. It's a back and forth, tug-of-war of emotions that pulls at you from every angle, taking in every aspect of human life.
We walked out of the movie almost stunned, and just stood there. Thoughts whirling through our heads. My friend who had served in the army was very quiet. Tears were in my eyes and another friend's eyes as we thought about our friends who were still overseas... very possibly in places that looked very much like those that we witnessed in the movie. The two boys with us stood as if stunned.
Finally, my friend Mike said, "I don't know what to do with that."
Neither did we. But the next morning I woke up and I said to myself, I know what to do with it. I need to share it. Everyone needs to share it. Because without understanding, without realizing that anyone can become a monster just as anyone can become a hero, without knowledge, we will never learn.
Personally, I hope that the people in power see this movie. But they probably won't, even if they are the ones who could benefit the most from it. And then I wonder, if they watched it, what would they see?