Wed November 2, 2005
Could any war be as boring as the one Mendes depicts?
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
I was disappointed President Bush never took out Sadaam Hussein in the Gulf War. I am now disappointed that director Sam Mendes in Jarhead addresses neither Bush's reasoning nor the character of the enemy our troops faced in Desert Storm. Could any war be as boring as the one Mendes depicts?
Well, maybe that's what he wanted to achieve: Jarheads (Marine grunts) such as snipers Swoff (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Troy (Peter Sarsgaard) just sit around joking and masturbating waiting for the big war orgasm, shooting, that never comes (Air support seems to do the job efficiently especially in the wide open desert). The grandest emotional occurrence for most seems to center around the infidelity of wives and lovers. Otherwise, the staff sergeant (Jamie Foxx) does what cinema sergeants have always done, toughen up the boys by insulting them personally and abusing them physically. And that's the most interesting part of the film.
The film shows clips from that film and Deer Hunter, perhaps unintentionally contrasting their great fusion of themes and character and Jarhead's second-rate stature next to them. Although not the stunning work of Vittorio Storaro or Vilmos Zsigmond, Roger Deakins' cinematography stressing the reds and yellows of desert sky and burning oil wells is impressive and Apocalypse memorable.
All three of these films in one way or another owe a debt to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the ultimate study of colonialism and global thievery. Marlow's words refer to what I find lacking in Jarhead: a great idea or theme to worship.
"The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretense but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea--something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to . . . ."
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com