Sunday, May 1, 2016

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Film Review from the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

The title refers to a bullet. The film begins with the new recruits undergoing training to be soldiers. This takes the form of the most unbelievable verbal abuse - something in which the audience took delight. Furthermore, the recruits are told to give their rifles a name because that is the nearest they will get to a woman - women are seen only as objects of satisfaction. "You're useless without a rifle and the rifle is useless without you". 'Marines die. That's what we're here for, but the Marine Corps lives forever, and that means you live forever" they are told, to instill obedience and loyalty.

Like most dramatic films about the Vietnam war since Apocalypse Now, we only see the Vietnamese as cyphers and shadowy figures: prostitutes haggling over payments; evacuees fleeing, and snipers.

The voice-over is used, a common technique now in this type of film. The voice belongs to Private Joker, who wears a CND symbol along with the words "BORN TO KILL" on his helmet. When asked "How is the war going to be won if you wear a peace symbol?" by a high-ranking officer, he replies "I think I was trying to say something about quality".

In fact, in an interview the director said "We're never going to get down to doing anything about things that are really bad in the world until there is recognition within us of the darker side of our natures, the shadow side”.

The reasons for the war are never touched upon, but we see the effects on (young) soldiers. It is a powerful film showing war as it must be but we must get down to getting rid of the cause of war - capitalism - and not have to continue making conveyor-belt war films.

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