Jarhead appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The flick mostly looked good, though a few nagging concerns dropped my grade to a “B”.
Sharpness varied. Wide shots occasionally seemed slightly soft and ill-defined, largely due to the presence of some mild edge enhancement. Still, most of the picture seemed acceptably crisp and well-delineated. A little shimmering and a few jagged edges cropped up, but I noticed no signs of source flaws. The flick showed some light stylized grain but didn’t suffer from any actual defects.
Jarhead went with an intensely desaturated palette. A blown-out, high-contrast look dominated the flick. This was especially true in the desert, but even the basic training sequences lacked much color. That was fine for the movie’s visual design, so I found the colors to seem appropriate. Blacks were reasonably dense and deep, but shadows appeared erratic. Usually they looked acceptably smooth, but some shots were too thick and tough to discern. This all added up to a good picture but not one that seemed especially memorable.
More consistent pleasures came from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Jarhead. A solid soundfield, it just barely lacked the ambition to reach “A”-level. Not surprisingly, the mix came to life best during the battle sequences. Though our protagonists never became involved in the fight, it swarmed around them at times and created a lively, vivid setting. Bullets, explosions and vehicles zipped around us and made sure that we felt like we were part of the action.
Even during more passive sequences, the film offered a good soundscape. Music showed nice stereo presence, while environmental elements popped up in logical, natural locations. Although the mix only soared on occasion, it still formed a solid sense of atmosphere.
From start to finish, the flick boasted excellent audio quality. Speech was crisp and concise, with good intelligibility and no edginess. Music sounded bright and dynamic, and effects were very strong. They demonstrated fine clarity and accuracy, and the mix also featured positive bass response. This was a consistently fine track.
For this single-disc version of Jarhead, we get a mix of supplements. We begin with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Sam Mendes as he offers a running, screen-specific chat. He discusses story issues and the adaptation of the original book, improvisation, rehearsal and performances, locations, the movie’s visual style and color choices, political aspects of the tale, and general production notes. Across the board, Mendes offers a strong look at his film. He delves into the “whys” and “hows” of matters well and provides a nice sense of introspection. This ends up as a useful and enjoyable piece.
The second commentary presents screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. and author Anthony Swofford. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. They discuss adaptation issues, the facts behind the story, their experiences in the military, and reflections on the current situation in Iraq. (Broyles fought in Vietnam, and his son serves in Iraq now.)
At its best, this commentary provides a lot of good insight into the truth of military service and how it affects its participants. At times, the track drags, especially during the movie’s first half. Swofford seems slow to get involved with matters, so the piece doesn’t go much of anywhere until he begins to open up and engage with Broyles. I wish the commentary more consistently got into the real experiences behind the film, but it still offers a good take on the requisite issues.
Next comes Swoff’s Fantasies. Four of these appear, and they last a total of six minutes, 12 seconds. These were bits meant to run through the movie. They would have shown some imaginary images experienced by Swofford. They cut into scenes in the final flick and show a different perspective on matters. We can watch them with or without commentary from Mendes and editor Walter Murch. They explain what they meant to do with them and why they dropped them from the complete product.
A segment called News Interviews in Full goes for 16 minutes, 37 seconds. As with the “Fantasies”, these are essentially deleted scenes – or at least truncated scenes. They show more staged TV footage with Troy, Fowler, Fergus, Pinko, Escobar, Cortez, and Swoff. These are extended versions of the pieces found in the final flick. They’re interesting to see but none of the added material belonged in the finished film.
We can check these out with optional commentary from Mendes and Murch. They discuss the shooting of the scenes and how they cut down the elements for the completed flick. Some good notes appear, but there’s not a wealth of vivid information here.
11 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 19 minutes and eight seconds. We start with an alternate introduction set in 1983 that features a cameo from Sam Rockwell as Swoff’s Marine uncle. We also get more from boot camp and in the Middle East. The 1983 clip is definitely the most interesting of the bunch, but even it’s not especially memorable. None of the others stand out as particularly compelling.
As you might guess, these are available with or without commentary from Mendes and Murch. They offer solid information here. They give us background about the scenes and why they got the boot. I wasn’t terribly impressed with their statements for “Fantasies” and “News”, but their “Deleted Scenes” details merit a listen.
The DVD opens with two Previews. We get ads for Brokeback Mountain and E-Ring. No trailer for Jarhead appears on the DVD.
Unlike most war movies, Jarhead features combatants who never fire any shots. The flick concentrates on their psychological issues and how they deal with their inactivity, and it does so in an involving and well-realized manner. The DVD offers fairly good picture along with very strong audio. It also includes a few nice extras highlighted by two useful audio commentaries. Jarhead is a worthwhile movie and a solid DVD.