Jarhead - Retreat!

Duration: 123min
Category: drama
Available: On DVD
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Gulf War movies are the latest trend. I guess no one is that interested in Vietnam anymore and there are endless chronicles of that conflict out there so we have moved on to the next generationís battle. Jarhead is the latest to deal with the first Bushís insane project and I assume that soon we will be inundated with films about his sonís.

Unfortunately, Jarhead doesnít offer us anything new. At one point, after hearing the Stones play on some stereo, a solider even says, ďThatís Vietnam music. Canít we get our own music?Ē Good question. Canít this generation get their own angst? Havenít we seen all this before?

Jarhead seems to be going through the motions for at least the first half of the film. There are all the basic bits; war is hell, soldiers are all scared and insecure little boys, brotherhood is formed through the objectification of women and the humiliation of each other. Finally somewhere in the middle, Operation Desert Storm actually begins and the film takes on its own life.

Mendes (American Beauty and Road to Perdition) knows how to make a pretty film and the images in this half become quite vivid. However there just isnít enough story or characterization to flesh the film out. The cast, which includes Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard and Chris Cooper, is good but working with too little material. There are interesting moments but they are strung together with too many boring bits. Even all the half nude soldiers canít keep the audience interested.

Mendes, so interested in the effects of events on his characters in his previous works, seems here to only want to gloss over them. There are small references to emotion, like Gyllenhaal aiming a gun at a comrade or a welcoming Vietnam vet, but these tend to skim the surface and disappear far to quickly. Everything is bottled up inside, maybe reflecting the soldiersí own approach, while explosions go on to distract us.

Jarhead isnít a big failure like the wars in the Middle East. There are some beautiful shots of burning oil fields and few moments of insight. However the film, like its subject, looks just like the next one and is hard to distinguish from anything else.

Review By: Collin Smith

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