The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Jarhead (2005)

An intense, boring, profound, profane, disturbing, enlightening movie about the process of turning men into killing machines, then postponing the actual killing.  What happens to the human soul when this primal aspect, the killer/protector, is sharpened to a lethal edge?  The hyper male bonding sequences, the hallucinogenic images of war delayed, postponed, or missed by the narrowest of margins strikes me as entering the heart of darkness as deeply as anything I've seen since "Apocolypse Now," which "Jarhead" references.  Based on an autobiographical novel dealing with the first Gulf war, "Jarhead" couldn't be timelier.  As the nation debates the cost and appropriateness of our current conflict, as questions of torture and "black prisons" are raised, it is vital to address the psychic costs of battle, and preparation for battle.  There is also a dark and invaluable aspect of the male psyche that absolutely loves the killing, the destruction, the special comeraderie found only between men who put their lives on the line to enter an arena no civilian will ever truely understand.  it is a part of the human character, and we abuse it only at our peril.  There is soul-risking trauma in opening that trap door, and "Jarhead" takes you there, beautifully.  A "must-see" film that asks important questions.  People said that "Fight Club" dealt with the secret hearts of men.  What crap.  Maybe the secret angst of middle-class white guys, but there was nothing universal about that at all.  "Jarhead" gets one hell of a lot closer to a truth we'd rather close our eyes to: we need this aspect of the human heart, even as we are justifiably terrified by it.  An "A."

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