Stanley Kubrick’s harrowing look at the war machine gets a UltraHD upgrade
Along with Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Oliver Stone’s Platoon, Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket completes perhaps the most revered and potent trifecta of war movies. A two part chronicling of a war machine that takes in raw recruits, strips them of their humanity, and spits out killers ready for the front lines of the Vietnam war. Bleak humor, brutal action, Kubrick’s craft is on display throughout, driving home the psycological and physical costs of preparing for, and being at war.
Gny. Sgt. Hartman (the magnificent R. Lee Ermey in the role he was born to play) is charged with reducing men to maggots then into a tool for their country. His arsenal, aside from rigerous and exhaustive physical exercise, racial slurs, weaponizing sexuality and physical appearence. The training ekes out the shreds of humanity, severing emotion to normalcy and previous connections, deconstructing them to rebuild than as a uniform unit of killers. Reft of their names, a moniker installed instead. ‘Joker’ (Matthew Modine), ‘Animal Mother’ (Adam Baldwin), ‘Gomer’ (Vincent D’Onofrio), ‘Eightball’ (Dorian Harewood) and ‘Cowboy’ (Arliss Howard). They ceremonially give their guns names, forging a solitary bond to a new love and purpose. Dialogue is sparse, used as a tool to break down these men or give us an insight into their mental state. Broken, we see the infamous Private Pyle, and the fracturing of his psych leaving him with only one recourse. The rest are shipped out to Vietnam.
The second part of the film comes like a whiplash. Order switches into chaos, practice becomes reality. Joker, our audience surrogate, picks up his role again, offering insight not just as a soldier, but in his dual role as a journalist alongside his platoon. Vietnam is shown as a hollowed out shell of a region, infused with potential for conflict, dark shadow cast over the locals and soldiers alike. Kubrick crafts a detatched feel, to these men and the experience of war, both stripped of humanity. We encounter a female sniper, a reminder that innocence is lost on both sides. It’s an unnerving feeling, stark and univiting, meshing foreboding and futility. A hellish landscape bathed with sniper fire, explosions, and blood, a horrifying reality so well imagined it becomes hard to endure, which is precisely the point.
This 4K restoration comes from a scan of the original 35mm negative, a process overseen by Leon Vitali, Stanley Kubrick’s former personal assistant. From the stark pale greens of the fluorescently lit barracks,to the vegetation and fire covered war zones of Vietnam, environments are impeccably represented. Detail, depth, and texture of images impress, colors are strongly and naturally rendered. This is one of those releases where you can really feel the benefits of stepping up to 4K.
Extra features are not only on the slim side, but they appear to be straightforward ports from an old release, and are limited to the Blu-ray disc:
- Audio Commentary with Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onfrio, R. Lee Ermey, and critic/screenwriter Jay Cocks: A disjointed affair, with each contributor recorded separately. Some of the insights and reflections are informative, most notably D’Onfrio and Ermey discussing their personal memories of Kubrick, but as a whole it lacks flow
- Full Metal Jacket — Between Good and Evil: A 30 minute documentary from 2007, directed by Gary Leva. A brisk and yet dense look at the production and Kubrick’s process. Inspirations, locations, casting, cast stories, car crashes and more. A fine addition to the release
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
Full Metal Jacket remains an unshakable dark vision, highlighting not just Stanley Kubrick’s talent as a filmmaker, but also his determination to drag us into the mire of conflict and the horrors of war. That immersion is only enhanced by this new 4K presentation.
Full Metal Jacket is available on 4K Combo pack and streaming from 22nd September