Jarhead (the self-imposed moniker of the Marines) follows “Swoff” (Gyllenhaal), a third-generation enlistee, from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, sporting a sniper’s rifle and a hundred-pound ruck on his back through Middle East deserts with no cover from intolerable heat or from Iraqi soldiers, always potentially just over the next horizon. Swoff and his fellow Marines sustain themselves with sardonic humanity and wicked comedy on blazing desert fields in a country they don’t understand against an enemy they can’t see for a cause they don’t fully fathom… Foxx portrays Sergeant Sykes, a Marine lifer who heads up Swofford’s scout/sniper platoon, while Sarsgaard is Swoff’s friend and mentor, Troy, a die-hard member of STA-their elite Marine Unit.
Jarhead is the furthest thing away from a family film that I have seen in a long, long time. It contains at least 2 f-words per minute in the dialog, not to mention all the other graphically obscene language. There are several sex scenes and negative dialog about women, girlfriends and wives “back home”. If you are looking for a family film, this is not the one.
Jarhead is well made and I fear in some ways very realistic. When I left the theatre I spoke to a couple of older looking men who were veterans and both of them liked the film. They thought it was realistic and found the acting to be good. They didn’t seem bothered by the graphic elements of the film. I asked them if they found the film depressing and they said “yes, its war, but depressing is different than realistic”. I found it surprising that older men, especially veterans, would enjoy this film. Jarhead was very unflattering towards our military, but then again maybe that is the reality of life as a Marine. If it is, it is certainly a sad commentary of our armed forces, how they act, speak and what occupies their time and thoughts.
One of the things that bothered me the most was that the two main characters actually couldn’t wait to kill someone. They were so eager to blow someone away that they went somewhat crazy because they were in the Middle East so long and didn’t get to shoot anyone. I guess they are trained to kill, but their desire to kill seemed a bit excessive to me. I’m not convinced Jarhead was that realistic since reading the comments from Diantha Eldridge, the real life mother of Lance Cpl. Troy Collier (Swofford’s friend “Allen Troy” in the film). She claims “a lot of things in there aren’t true” about her son and said that she even tried to reach Swofford to give him a piece of her mind.