Full Metal Jacket


“What is your major malfunction, numbnuts?” is one of the more printable epithets hurled by Marine sergeant R. Lee Ermey at new recruits (i.e., “maggots”) Matthew Modine, Arliss Howard and primary whipping boy Vincent D’Onofrio in Stanley Kubrick’s terrifically intense exploration of the nightmarish realities and psychological toll of modern warfare. Based on Gustav Hasford’s novel “The Short Timers,” Kubrick’s return to filmmaking after a seven-year hiatus (following The Shining) crystallizes the visceral experience of the Vietnam War by focusing on a group of raw Marine volunteers. Divided into two distinct acts, the film’s first half details the volunteers’ harrowing boot camp training under the profane, razor-toothed guidance of monstrous drill instructor Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey, a real-life drill instructor whose performance is one of the most terrifyingly realistic ever captured on celluloid). Part two takes place in Vietnam (with Vietnam itself painstakingly recreated in the English countryside by the travel-averse Kubrick), where, after their harrowing experiences in boot camp, the now thoroughly indoctrinated soldiers realize they have simply exchanged one hell for another on the bloody battlefields. One of the most frightening and pungent cinematic statements ever made about the dehumanizing effects of war, Full Metal Jacket served as a chilling bookend to Kubrick’s 1957 classic Paths of Glory. (Dir. By Stanley Kubrick, 1987, USA/UK, 116 mins., Rated R) Digital