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Sam Mendes
Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Cooper, Scott MacDonald, Lo Ming, Damion Poitier, Brianne Davis, Tyler Sedustine, Jacob Vargas
Writing Credits:
William Broyles Jr.

A psychological study of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the Gulf War through the eyes of a US Marine sniper who struggles to cope with the possibility his girlfriend may be cheating on him back home.

Box Office:
$70 million.
Opening Weekend
$27.726 million on 2411 screens.
Domestic Gross
$62.647 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 11/25/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director Sam Mendes
• Audio Commentary with Screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. and Author Anthony Swofford


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Jarhead [Blu-Ray] (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 30, 2016)

2005’s Jarhead provides an unusual take on the war movie genre. The story opens in 1989 and introduces us to new Marine recruit Anthony “Swoff” Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Swoff immediately regrets his decision but finds a new opportunity when Staff Sergeant Sykes (Jamie Foxx) recruits him to be a scout sniper. Swoff passes his training and by 1990, he finds himself in Kuwait for Operation Desert Shield.

Jarhead follows his experiences there. We follow Swoff along with Sykes and fellow Marines like Troy (Peter Sarsgaard), Kruger (Lucas Black) and Fowler (Evan Jones). The movie shows their half a year of inactivity before Desert Shield turns into Desert Storm in January 1991.

Jarhead presents a skewed look at warfare. While most flicks of this short show military training and then combat actions perpetrated by the leads, Jarhead keeps the scout snipers out of direct conflict. They suffer from a serious case of shootus interruptus – whenever they come close to achieving the orgasm of gunfire, something cuts short their closure.

The film’s theme makes it different. Jarhead views the consequences of the creation of killing machines who never have the chance to fulfill their destiny. The movie’s all foreplay, and the Marines suffer from this extended tease.

That makes it intriguing. We constantly wait for the release to come, but the movie denies us that sense of completion. We grow almost as irritated and frustrated as the Marines.

In many ways, Jarhead feels like a companion to 1987’s Full Metal Jacket, at least due to the insolent way it views the military experience. However, I think Jarhead offers a more subtle and intelligent take. I never cared for Kubrick’s flick, as I thought it lacked subtlety or creativity.

Jarhead comes across with greater depth and presents something we’ve not seen 100 times in the past. It slowly draws us into its tale of psychological pressure and the problems that come with inactivity. The film doesn’t beat us over the head with its thoughts, as instead it allows us to get involved with the characters and watch them slowly unravel.

The actors help make the flick work. Although the script doesn’t give the characters too much time to become much more than quick stereotypes, each performer manages to put his own stamp on matters. This means that the castmembers make the most of their screentime and form reasonably interesting personalities.

Gyllenhaal creates a particularly rich impression. At the film’s start, Swoff seems like little more than a smart semi-pacifist with a moderately abusive family background who ends up in the military as a last resort. We expect him to be the intelligent troublemaker, but he falls into line much more than anticipated. The character manages a subtlety that keeps him from falling into the standard traps, and that keeps us off-guard as we’re never quite sure what to make of him.

The same goes for the unpredictable Jarhead. Actually, I could anticipate some parts of the film, as I wasn’t surprised that the Marines never entered formal combat. Nonetheless, the movie presents a quirky and unusual take on warfare.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Jarhead appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I thought the transfer replicated the source well.

Sharpness worked fine. A few shots seemed slightly soft, but not to a problematic degree, and the majority of the film appeared accurate and well-defined. I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also caused no concerns.

Jarhead went with an intensely desaturated palette. A blown-out, high-contrast khaki 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 hues to seem appropriate.

Blacks were dense and deep, and shadows fared well. Low-light shots delivered appropriate delineation and clarity. All in all, this became a satisfying presentation.

I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 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.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD release? Audio showed greater dynamic range and impact, while the picture seemed tighter and more film-like. This became a nice step up in quality.

In terms of extras, we get 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 situation in Iraq circa 2005. (Broyles fought in Vietnam, and his son served in Iraq.)

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.

Note that the Blu-ray drops a lot of extras from the DVD. That release came in both one-disc and two-disc flavors, and only the commentaries repeat from those. I don’t know why the Blu-ray loses all those bonus materials, but their absence disappoints.

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 Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio along with two informative commentaries. The loss of so many supplements from the DVD release becomes a letdown, but the Blu-ray delivers the superior presentation of the film itself.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of JARHEAD

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