Viewing audiences and critics generally dismissed Jarhead when it rolled into theaters last year. That was a mistake—it’s one of the better unconventional war films ever made. This subgenre is championed by masterpieces such as Full Metal Jacket, Dr. Strangelove, and Apocalypse Now. These flicks actually explore the essence of war and its inevitable impact on the core of humanity. Jarhead measures up to the best of them specifically because the purported negatives critics hurled at it (cold, distant) is exactly the reason why it is great.
From the first few scenes, director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) lays the foundation for an unsettling, cold, and aloof tone. We catch up with Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the middle of boot camp, and he accidentally ends up training for an elite sniper team after trying to dodge any real responsibility. Mendes has captured, with great skill and care, the hyper-reality of war.
Offered in Dolby Digital 5.1, the audio track is very well executed, with music and surround effects operating at full capacity. The 2-Disc Collector’s Edition features in-depth bonus material that gives viewers an even deeper look into the cast and crew’s experiences on the set and the harsh realities of life on the battlefield. Especially interesting is “Jarhead Diaries”—a look at the personal video diaries created by cast and crew. The 2.35:1 anamorphic image looks good, but it’s not the best image to show off your system with, as it has a muted color palette that is typical of desert scenes.