Stanley Kubrick's film Full Metal Jacket (1987), captures the harsh reality of war through the perspective of Private Joker, a Marine Corp soldier. Based on Gustav Hasford's novel, The Short Timers, Full Metal Jacket catches the physical but more importantly the emotional response to their transformation into soldiers. Kubrick explores the day-to-day conflicts afflicting the soldiers as they face death, destruction, and the duality of man.
The movie starts at Paris Island Marine Base with the innocent recruits receiving their introduction into the Marin Corps. Their individuality diminishes with their first haircut and they are forced into unit under the command of Drill instructor (D.I). Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, the DI, quickly starts to break down the men's habits and begins creating men whose sole purpose is their devotion to their service. There are many instances of verbal insults inflicted on the soldiers during their harsh physical and mental drills.
Terms such as "maggot" or "lady" are repeatedly used to create "lean mean killing machines".
The path of the creation of the soldier is focused on Private Joker (Private J.T. Davis). He transforms from a naÃÂ¯ve boy into a more hardy, focused man. As the newly formed soldiers graduate from boot camp, most are shipped to Vietnam to fight in the ground war. Private Joker takes part in the war effort as a field reporter for the armed forces Journal: Stars & Stripes.
In his new position as a journalist, Private Joker's lifestyle changes from the intense living order of boot camp into a loose living environment. Kubrick details the manipulation of the press in order to boast the moral of the soldiers by showing the American people the profound effect of the military presence in Vietnam. In his attempt to make a farce of this fallacy Private Joker ridicules such reporting. After the "Tet" offensive he is sent on a field assignment and as he heads towards the Hue City, he runs into an old friend "Cowboy" from boot camp. Private Joker stays with Cowboy's unit as he advances further towards the city. Upon entering the city it becomes dark the emotions of fear and aggression are acted out and as a result death and destruction intensify. Both fear and aggression are expressed through Private Jokers peace button along with his helmet with the phrase "Born to Kill" written on it. It is evident that he has a contradictory outlook on his ideals versus the ideals of his platoon. His explanation is based on the "duality of man". In other words, humans strive for peace through war.
Hue City is heavily occupied by Northern Vietnamese as Private Joker quickly recognizes as the men around him began dying. Private Joker's persona changes from reporter into a soldier as his involvement in the war intensifies. Many men die around Joker, but he doesn't acknowledge his emotions until his close friend Cowboy is "wasted" by a sniper. Joker's carefree attitude regarding the entire conflict is replaced by a hardened awareness. The scene showing Private Joker killing of the sniper is his right of passage as a soldier. This passage is the epitome of the death and destruction found throughout the movie.
This movie details accurately the experiences that a soldier would have gone through during Vietnam. However there are some faults that I can point out. The first inaccuracy of the movie lies in the depiction of the Marine Boot Camp. Having experience the Air Force's version and by my own research boot camp was most likely not as verbally abusive as it is in real life. The heightened cruelty of the verbal abuse was an added affect to raise the viewer's emotions and attitudes in order to feel pity for the new recruits. Although Kubrick bent the truth, he did achieve his goals of scarring the audience and creating sympathy for the soldiers. The second and only other inaccuracy that was brought to my attention had to do with the M-16 assault rifle. During the early periods of the war soldiers who were fighting in the jungle terrain of Vietnam had to deal a different type of battlefield then what the Armed Forces were prepared for. The M-16 was just recently introduced to the Department of Defense and was massed produce for the Vietnam War. The M-16 was a very good rifle, however, its design was susceptible to jamming during the discharge of a bullet. This was usually caused by dirt. After this flaw was reported by numerous soldiers, the Department of Defense quickly fixed the problem. The technology of the M-16 was upgraded to fix its unreliability. When Private Joker's M-16 jammed at the end of the movie, he was fighting in the battle of Hue city (after the Tet offensive) that took place toward the end of the war. I believe that the M-16 shouldn't have jammed as it was shown in the movie. Other than those two inaccuracies, I found Stanley Kubrick's movie Full Metal Jacket to be an accurate description of a soldier's journey during the Vietnam War.