Thursday, February 02, 2006


By Reymundo Salao

Based on the book by Anthony Swofford and his experiences in the first Gulf war and life as a member of the Marines, JARHEAD is a personal movie that tells the life of Anthony "Swoff" Swofford as a Marine. The story starts the day he got himself in the Marine Corps. And later on, as the US Government sends its forces into the Middle East to await for an impending war, we get to witness the lives of the Marines as they wait for war to come. We see many of their boredom, loneliness, and insanity as they live their long days out in the desert to wait for a war that doesn’t seem to happen.

There are numerous movies that I have watched about lives of soldiers, from Stanley Kubrick's "FULL METAL JACKT" to the Robin Padilla movie "MISTAH", and may it be action-packed or not, these are movies that always give us a most interesting glimpse of the many adventures, struggles, and reflections that a soldier goes through.

Do not expect JARHEAD to be a Rambo-type action movie. This is a movie that focuses more on the soldier's lives, and not on the politics of the war that they have gone through. Their most fierce war is one fought with themselves. Their inner demons and how they can cope with the many pains they go through.

On the other hand, there is enough wit in JARHEAD to render you giggling at even some of the seriously dramatic scenes. There is even the twin side of drama and humor in scenes where the soldiers must confront the possibility that the women they love and left back home are sleeping with other men.

The film is directed by Sam Mendes, whose reputed body of work includes the multi-awarded "American Beauty" and the Tom Hanks gangster-noir drama film "Road to Perdition". In JARHEAD, Mendes is able to create a war movie without exaggerating too much on the cliché of anti-war-ism. Instead, he just tells soldier-life as it is; the boredom and frustration, the anxieties, and the craziness. And of course, the camaraderie. He also marinates this movie with groovy soundtracks, from Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" to T-Rex's "Bang the Gong".

Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a superb performance as the main character "Swoff". This movie is told from his point-of-view and narration. After scoring a big reputation for his portrayal of Ray Charles in the biographical movie "RAY", Jamie Foxx consistently keeps up his stature with a commanding performance as Staff Sgt. Sykes, always a tough and headstrong leader. Also appearing in films such as "Skeleton Key" and "Flightplan", Peter Sarsgaard has become a familiar face in Hollywood movies. But he now etches his reputation with this movie as he plays Troy, Swoff's closest buddy and sniper partner, who oftentimes acts as the big brother of their platoon.

it is right to call it a war drama but it is better to call it a soldier story. JARHEAD is an eye-opening film that is never to be missed, especially to those who love stories about war-life. JARHEAD is superb, witty, and OUTSTANDING!

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