There are many films about the Vietnam War, and there have been even more films about the World Wars. However, Jarhead is one of the only movies I can recall seeing solely about the Gulf War, and it is undoubtedly the only film I have noticed that covers the war in any accurate detail. Jarhead follows the life of a young soldier named Anthony 'Swoff' Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) through his various stages of existence in the cruel and hostile Iraqi desert, switching from brave soldier to war crazy lunatic all in a short time. The film is both highly entertaining and thought-provoking.
Swoff: That's Vietnam music. Can't we get our own music?
When I first heard about this picture, I was more than a little dubious about Jake Gyllenhaal's ability to play a wartime soldier. It's not that I think his acting is terrible. It's just that he didn't strike me as a very built or tough kind of guy, and he seemed more than a bit too tender to fit this kind of role. But after seeing the film, I can say that he did the part perfectly. His acting in this film is very versatile, and I think this is one of his best films to date. Jamie Foxx's performance as Staff Sergeant Sykes is rather exceptional as well, and I think the rest of the cast also did a pretty good job.
Swoff: A man fires a rifle for many years and he goes to war. He comes home and he sees that whatever else he may do with his life like build a house, love a woman, change his son's diaper but he will always remain a jarhead.
Jarhead covers the essential nasty and gritty nature of war. Still, it also covers the underlining sense of confusion, frustration, and boredom that seemed to focus on the Gulf War. The film very aptly shows how the different soldiers deal with the stress of being away from home. It also shows them in various stages of aggression, denial, insanity, and genuine acts of bravery. Overall the cinematography and imagery overall are rather breathtaking, the script is well written, and the film works well. While this is undoubtedly not as phenomenal a war film as, say, Born On The Fourth Of July, it still holds its weight and is most definitely a stand-out in the genre.
Swoff: Every war is different, every war is the same.
As an infantryman and combat veteran, I can tell you that there are many "hurry up and wait" moments that seem to go on forever. Jarhead depicted that perfectly. I recommend this movie. Sure, it has its Hollywood moments, but it does a great job showing the tedious, repetitive, and mundane routines warfighters encounter while deployed in a warzone.