A psychological study of operations desert shield and desert storm during the gulf war; through the eyes of a U.S marine sniper who struggles to cope with the possibility his girlfriend may be cheating on him back home.
Anthony "Swoff" Swofford, a Camus-reading kid from Sacramento, enlists in the Marines in the late 1980s. He malingers during boot camp, but makes it through as a sniper, paired with the usually-reliable Troy. The Gulf War breaks out, and his unit goes to Saudi Arabia for Desert Shield. After 175 days of boredom, adrenaline, heat, worry about his girlfriend finding someone else, losing it and nearly killing a mate, demotion, latrine cleaning, faulty gas masks, and desert football, Desert Storm begins. In less than five days, it's over, but not before Swoff sees burned bodies, flaming oil derricks, an oil-drenched horse, and maybe a chance at killing. Where does all the testosterone go? Written by
Scenes filmed in the Imperial Valley had the mountains in the background digitally removed. Additional desert scenes were also filmed in Mexico. See more »
The Marine officers look as though they're wearing standard, shiny officer badges. Marine officers do not wear standard badges during deployments because it would give away their rank to the enemy. They wear non-standard badges to maintain a low profile. See more »
Anthony 'Swoff' Swofford:
A story: A man fires a rifle for many years, and he goes to war. And afterward he turns the rifle in at the armory, and he believes he's finished with the rifle. But no matter what else he might do with his hands, love a woman, build a house, change his son's diaper; his hands remember the rifle.
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At the end of the credits, Sykes can be heard calling out the following military cadence, with his platoon responding: 'All my life it was my dream/ To be a bad motherfucking U.S. Marine.' See more »
I saw a promotional screening of the film, sponsored by my university. Following the screening was an audience Q&A with the author (and main character), Tony Swofford.
And it was no surprise that the very first question from the audience was, quite ambiguously, "Do you support the military?" When Swofford dismissed the question as too broad and complex to be answered with a simple yes or no, the inquirer followed up with, "Well, do you support the war?" Swofford dismissed this even more readily.
To me, this was perfectly representative of how the film handled its potential political implications.
As Troy says early on in the film, "To hell with politics. We're here now." And that's essentially how the movie went.
It bypasses the soapbox and simply tells you how it was, from the perspective of a single soldier. And while the opening boot camp scenes may seem like Full Metal Jacket Lite, the rest of the film is truly unique.
Sam Mendes directs with his usual brilliance, showing once again his affinity for bright, vivid color, even in the largely monochromatic desert.
Jake Gyllenhaal gives an excellent performance as Anthony Swofford, complemented by the able talents of Jamie Foxx and Peter Sarsgaard.
The film's only real flaw is that, like the war on which it was based, it's pretty slow, and not a lot really happens.
In the strictest sense, I would have a hard time even classifying this as a war film, and it's certainly not a deliberately political film.
But in its own way, it tells an intense, personal story. Beyond that, you're simply left to make your own judgments.
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