out of Five
Running time: 123
Sam Mendes’ latest film is beautifully shot and features a terrific cast but it stops short of saying anything meaningful.
What’s it all about?
The title of the film refers to the brutal haircut given to the recruits as well. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Swoff, a young Marine hoping to see action when he’s sent to the Saudi Arabian desert after Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait in 1990.
However, Swoff quickly discovers that it’s a case of all dressed up and no-one to kill
, as there’s nothing for him and his soldier buddies to do except wait, stage scorpion fights and play the occasional game of American football whilst wearing gas masks.
Gyllenhaal effortlessly carries the film, making an engaging lead, even if his character’s lust for the pink mist is a little disturbing. There are also a number of terrific performances from a strong supporting cast that includes Peter Sarsgaard (as Swoff’s sniper partner) and Jamie Foxx as the no-nonsense commander.
There are some terrific scenes here and some genuinely beautiful images, such as the burning oilfields or the recruits leaving white footprints in burnt sand.
Given that the film is about the recruits sitting around and waiting for something to happen, it’s churlish to complain about the lack of plot. All the same, very little actually happens and the boredom becomes worryingly infectious in places. On a similar note, it’s a shame that Mendes wastes the opportunity to make any meaningful parallels with the current situation in Iraq.
Essentially, Jarhead is a series of beautifully shot scenes enlivened by a handful of engaging performances. Worth seeing, then, but if it’s politics you’re after, you’re better off with Three Kings.