Director: Sam Mendes
Year Released: 2005
Tips you off early on that it's an 'existential' film when the Anthony Swofford character (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is shown reading The Stranger while trying to deal with his stomach ailments: ultimately, it's shitty Camus. This timely 'anti-politician/anti-war' picture smacks false so often it's distracting: whereas Kubrick - in the fantastic Full Metal Jacket - looked upon the process of becoming and being a Marine with icy calm, Mendes is more of a fabulist, aiming more for symbolism (horses, Gyllenhaal vomiting sand in a dream) and almost Animal House-level rowdiness, and part of me feels that at least Kubrick respected the troops a little more than Mendes, who views the men as a bunch of cartoonish animals channeling their homosexual and homicidal impulses (the ending asks us to pity those that return to their mundane lives). Peter Sarsgaard plays the Gomer Pyle character, tweaked and tragic, but he's barely developed - the same goes for almost everyone else. My father, a Vietnam Veteran and former Marine, insists the book is better, which probably goes without saying (the movies generally act as expensive Cliff's Notes for a time-starved populace).