A new kind of war film for a new kind of war, Sam Mendes’ adaptation of Anthony Swofford’s account of his experiences in Iraq can however stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the best of them.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s progression from raw recruit through to the sheer tedium of waiting for his war to happen is in turns funny, fascinating and shocking and Mendes provides some striking imagery. The well observed and intelligent script gives the viewer a real sense of “being there”, and the uniqueness of the Iraq war in that it was so ubiquitous in the media means that these “behind the scenes” observations give real insight into the conflict, essentially filling in the blanks for those of us who experienced the war blow-by-blow on TV. Some of the characters were a little sketchy, but the triumvirate of Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx and Peter Sarsgaard are well rendered and acted. The clever use of contemporary music also compliments the action – or rather, lack of it – nicely, and it is full of knowing references to war movies and their role in popular culture, counterpointing the drudgery of its reality for these soldiers.
As a whole, Jarhead is a quality study of fighting men coming to terms with their own impotence in a conflict that was taken out of their hands by technology.