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In this movie based on Gustav Hasford's novel "The Short Timers", we find a group of newly recruited marines under the guidance of hard-nosed drill instructor Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey). His goal for the first half of the movie is to whip these guys into shape, and to make killing machines out of them for when they're called up to serve in the Vietnam War. Though there's a good fifty guys in the squadron, the main guys that are focused on in this act are J.T. Davis / Private Joker (Matthew Modine), an outspoken fellow who gains the respect of Hartman, and Leonard Lawrence / Private Gomer Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio), an overweight fellow who tends to screw everything up. Joker is placed in charge of getting Pyle into shape and getting him into military condition, but things quickly turn ugly with the situation when the stress of marine training pushes Pyle over the edge. In the second half of the movie, we shift gears to the battle-field, where Joker has become a marine photographer working for the military newspaper. He sees all of the death and destruction going on, and eventually has to step up and get in on the fighting as well.
Review by Chad
Added: February 10, 2005
Here we have another war movie, one which was released just a scant six months after the award-winning (but average in my eyes) Platoon. While Platoon focused more on the character development and showing the war through the eyes of your average Joe Grunt, this one put more emphasis on the war itself and the events that occur during it. Sure, there's some character development to be found here during the first act, but it mainly focuses on two or three guys and has everyone else serve as a sort of backdrop to their storyline. During the second act, we catch up with Joker (who was one of the guys who managed to receive a hearty helping of development in act one), who is hanging out with a slew of other characters, all of which received either little or no development in that act. None of these guys receive anything more during act two, so in that respect, this version of the Vietnam war flick falls a bit short of Platoon.
In terms of overall storyline, however, this one was much better than the aforementioned Platoon. The storyline moves along at a nice pace, and stays entertaining throughout the almost two-hour running time (especially in act one... Sgt. Hartman owned that entire act). In my view, it didn't try to force-feed that "war is bad" state of mind, which is one of the problems that I tend to have with most war films. This one basically came off as "war is bad, we know, so let's not dwell on that thought and show what happens during that war." The end product of a film was much more entertaining as a result, something that more war movie producers should take note of.
So then, we have some half-assed character development, a great storyline (when it comes to war movies), and that about wraps it up. The actors playing the parts here do a great job for the most part, with real-life drill instructor R. Lee Ermey (Hartman) being the greatest character bar-none. Since he was a legit drill instructor, he brought the realism factor to the movie, but he also brought in some great acting skills as well... that balance made for one of the most unforgettable characters in cinematic history, no doubt. Then, we have the unofficial leading man Matthew Modine (Joker). While he wasn't top-quality in the role, he did a sufficient enough job to keep me entertained, and never really stumbled into the downright-bad department. Vincent D'Onofrio (Gomer) was another great character here, going through the transformation from obnoxious slob to deranged lunatic flawlessly. The end result of his character was excellently handled, and D'Onofrio played it out perfectly. I do believe that not too many actors would have pulled off both parts of the role as well as this man did, so I have to give some major props to him.
Overall, this is a great film if you're a fan of war movies, but I don't think it'll do too much to convert you over to the genre if you're not. 7/10.
- added 12/27/2005, 05:56 PM
This is a film that has about three really good
sequences and the rest is just filler. I do not
consider this to be one of Kubrick's best films.
R. Lee Ermey steals the boot camp sequence and is
just riveting. That is the best sequence of the
film. There is also some interesting stuff during
battle, but everything else is just so-so.
- added 04/11/2007, 03:37 PM
I love this movie. But after the boot camp
section, this film loses it's steam. It went from
amazing to boring, really fast. But the first hour
is some of the most entertaining film I've seen,
so it bumps it up a few rating points. 8/10
- added 05/27/2008, 02:41 AM
As with most viewers, the highlight for me is the
first hour. The other hour and a half are still
amazing cinema, just not as hard-hitting (or even
entertaining) as the boot-camp.
same, all of the performances are amazing, and
such an accurate potrayl of the condition of our
soldiers in Vietnam truly was never showed in such
a beautiful light... fucking "Platoon"
trying to steal that spotlight... face it, Stone
can't make a film without overdramatizing
everything he can... but I digress... this is a
beautiful film to watch with extremely friving
charecters and (all around) an entertaining plot.
A bit dry at points... alot of points, actually,
but that is Kubrick's style, and I respect him for