Review Covers Blu-Ray & DVD Versions

Cover Art and Menu: 7/10
I’m not sure what I expect for a cover of a movie like Jarhead. I think I’m ok with the two leading men surrounded by images of war. That’s what it’s all about so I can’t really argue with that. I wouldn’t want some artsy cover, or  glitzy Hollywood blockbuster style image, so I’m happy with it as is. The menu is standard, nothing special or exciting, but functional.

Features: 9/10

  • Directors Commentary – Mendes really got into this project and you can tell from the way he talks about every scene, every performance, and pretty much every detail of the making of the film.
  • Feature Commentary With Screenwriter William Broyles Jr & Author Anthony Swofford (Blu-Ray Exclusive) –  Exclusive to the Blu-ray version this is a facinating commentary from the man who lived the movie and the man who adapted the novel for the screen.
  • Deleted Scenes (DVD Only) – If you love the movie you will want to see the deleted scenes. Basically it’s quality stuff cut out for time or because the scenes repeated something already established in the story in a different scene.
  • Swoff’s Fantasy Scenes (DVD Only) – This is a series of clips cut out of the overall story line that follow the fantasies of our man Swoff. It’s basically a whole layer of the story cut out for whatever reasons, I’m still not clear about. I think it might have been more farcical than it should have been with the tone of the rest of the story.
  • Full News Interviews (DVD Only) – In the movie the characters are interviewed as they are stationed in the desert. These are the full interviews as the actors were left to adlib the answers in character.
  • Jarhead Diaries (Exclusive To Collector Edition) – The actors were given hand held cameras to pack around during the shoot and this is some footage from their experience of making the film.
  • Semper FI Featurette (Exclusive To Collector Edition) – A lot of the extras were actual Marines and many were even at the Gulf during the war. This is a really good documentary about them and their individual journeys of making this film. It’s one of the best extras I’ve seen on a DVD. I highly recommend getting the Collector’s Edition if you want some quality bonus DVD materials.
  • Background Featurette (Exclusive To Collector Edition) – This is even more behind the scenes of making the movie, and not the kind that you see between films on HBO. I’m talking a real documentary style piece of work that adds even more to the experience of the movie and the filmmakers.

The Movie: 8/10
I would never think for one second that because I have seen Deer Hunter, or Apocalypse Now, or Saving Private Ryan, or Jarhead that I have even the slightest clue about what war is like up close and personal or what it does to the people who experience war. Jarhead is a glimpse into a moment in time through the eyes of a young man struggling with more than the fact that he’s enlisted himself in the Marines, which does seem to pretty much suck. I can relate to him on one level, the whole idea of looking at your own life, wondering what the hell you’re doing, what does it all mean, what’s the point? I do not relate to having those feelings in the middle of a foreign desert. I do not relate to being in fear of my life day after day after day because I might be subjected to nerve gas, bombs, or friendly fire. I do not relate to an understanding that I will either die young and horribly in the middle of a war I do not understand or simply have to wait until someone lets me finally go home and then spend the rest of my life thinking about the other people I saw die too young and horribly. It’s a cheery subject, can’t ya tell?

This film barely touches on the reasons so many of the world’s young men and women have been dragged into a war that most of us do not understand. It doesn’t have to. It’s a movie based on a book about one man’s experiences. It’s not meant to preach the gospel of how right or wrong the war is. Between the dialogue and style of the film it creates a very personal view of being one solitary person tossed into the huge meat grinder of world politics. We are not asked or directed to form an opinion about war, just to watch and respectfully acknowledge that it’s a miserable fucking thing we do to each other. I would say it in a nicer way, but that’s the feeling I got from Jarhead, so I think it’s fair to pass it along.

By following one young Marine we get an idea of the frustration and confusion, and maybe even a fraction of the physical hardships of being in such a harsh environment. The movie is set in an actual dessert where it’s real ding-dang hot, dry, and unforgiving. I don’t think a movie like this, if it were to be made on a back lot at the studio, would have had the same feel about it. The cast seem to be suffering along with the characters they play so it’s all that much more tactile.

There are several scenes that bring up some sort of visceral discomfort down in the pit of your gut. Take your pick, either when the latrine is cleaned (lovely), or when the burning oil fields rain black droplets of oil down on everyone and everything in a such suffocating way that you can almost imagine, but not quite. These are the moments in Jarhead I will remember most. Performances were excellent, so much so that it’s almost a non issue for me. I mean, when you see one or two who stand out or a couple who are semi-crappy compared to the top talent in a film, you notice. In this case everyone did their thing and did it well.

There is a throwback to the 70’s grittiness with a lot of close ups, subtle reactions vs. big theatrical gestures, and brief verbal exchanges vs. lengthy dialogue. A lot of movies through the 80’s and 90’s do a lot of chattering between characters to get their point across. Jarhead relies a lot on the audience “getting it” when a character nods, winces, shakes their head, or simply walks away from a moment rather than have to explain it all in boring dialogue that doesn’t fit the situation. It’s more satisfying to watch a story unfold on the screen that keeps you engaged with your eyes and your own mind instead of having some meatball character spouting every plot point or character revelation. There are many unexpected and stunning interactions between characters if you are watching closely enough.

Overall I say Jarhead is worth watching for the non-badgering unflinching view of war, and the top quality performances you get from everyone in the cast. I didn’t mention names because I really do think that there are no “stars” of this movie. Everyone fills a part precisely the way it should be whether we have heard of the actor who plays them or not. It’s fair to say I liked the film, but to say it’s enjoyable would be kind of strange. It’s entertaining in deliberate ways and it evokes some unexpected emotions, and that’s always a good thing when it comes to watching a film.

Audio & Video Blu-Ray Version: 8/10
Jarhead comes to Blu-ray disc just in time for Xmas and like a lot of Universals new back catalog releases is strangely devoid of extras, you do get a couple of commentaries but none of the great extras from the DVD have made the way to Blu-Ray.

Audio and video thankfully are a step up from the DVD which was pretty lackluster. Jarhead uses a single later 25GB disc which seems strange for a 123 minute movie. The movie is quite strange looking everything takes place under a scorching dessert sun so most of the scenes are bleached out and overexposed. I am pretty much sure this is the same transfer as the older HDDVD version which wasnt amazing but wasn’t poor either.

Sound on the other hand is amazing most of the movie is dialog driven but when the action scenes kick in your room is filled with sound and it really captures the hectic and disturbing tone of the movie. Overall if you have not seen the movie yet the Blu-Ray is the best version to see, but  if you are into extras grab the 2 disc DVD instead.

Value: 8/10
If you are going for a good DVD to add to your collection you won’t care about the price of Jarhead. It’s got a lot of quality extras and the movie is destined to be one of those “war classics”, whatever that means.

Overall Score 8/10