Jar n. – A cylindrical glass or earthenware with a wide mouth and usually no handles.
Head n. – The uppermost or forward most part of the body of a vertebrate, containing the brain and the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and jaws.
‘Jarhead’ is what the US army lovingly nicknames its marines, mainly for the ‘wide mouth’ and ‘no handles’ part. Jarhead is a story that revolves around a group of marines during the first Gulf War. We all remember that group of knuckleheads from high school that would go out and get wasted every weekend, come back to school and brag about their exploits; well this is a film about them.
The lead role of Jarhead is played by Jake Gyllenhaal (aka gay cowboy #2). Supporting Gyllenhaal is a range of little-known actors and Jamie Foxx; a notable performance is given by Peter Sarsgaard (of Garden State). Jarhead follows the marines through basic training and into the middle-east; however, this film differs from the normal war movies that we’re used to. Don’t expect any Apocalypse Now style animal sacrifices, or Enemy at the Gates tension here. Jarhead focuses more on the meaning of war than the actual act of war. In fact, in true US military style the only marines to be killed due to the war were in a truck that was bombed by their own plane – oh and the poor guy in basic training who stood up while live rounds were being fired above him.
Jarhead is a critique on war and its soldiers. Some question why they are in the Middle East at all where others just go along with what they are told- which separates some Jarheads from the others. There is a particularly well done part of the film when the press comes to interview the soldiers, Sgt Jamie Foxx tells them exactly what to say – some oblige and some don’t. So far, Jarhead may seem like a film that is deeply analytical about the themes and conventions of war, but it really does cater for all types of audiences. Aside from the underlying meanings there is a lot of humour; oftentimes you will find yourself laughing at the bumbling troops and feeling grateful that they’re not defending our country. A film that manages to look beyond the surface of war, but still entertain. A worthy film.
Directed by Sam Mendes