She Said: Marine’s Iraq story is jarring | PostIndependent.com
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She Said: Marine’s Iraq story is jarring

After a slew of Vietnam movies exploding with blood and guts, “Jarhead” slows the hard-hitting action down and opens a doorway to a different aspect of war.Based on the best-selling 2003 memoir by Anthony Swofford, a Marine who served in the first Gulf War, “Jarhead” shows the boredom, frustration and life-changing effects of war.Director Sam Mendes uses voice-over narration to set the tone, much like he does in “American Beauty.” From the beginning, it’s obvious this is no time for Rambo (a point military officials later verbalized to the Marines). Instead, “Jarhead” painstakingly depicts Marines training, watching television, waiting for letters from home, walking through the desert without engaging enemies and mostly just sitting around masturbating or razzing one another.Mendes skillfully makes the main character a witness and commentator on his life, which ultimately represents a larger group of people’s lives. He does the same thing in “American Beauty,” only he focuses on men’s mid-life crises. In both movies, he surrounds the main character with multifaceted personalities, rather than stereotypes, and draws us deeper into the experience. “American Beauty” still holds up as one of my favorite movies; that’s my bias. If you didn’t like it, you may find “Jarhead” slow, boring and pointless also.It’s true that “Jarhead” feels like a long movie. But it’s also an intensely disturbing movie, from the brutal brainwashing and intimidation during basic training to Marines begging officers like drug addicts to let them take the shot they were trained to take.”Jarhead” was especially intense for me, the daughter of a Vietnam vet and cousin of an Ohio Marine who lost a good portion of his battalion in Iraq a few months ago. My dad found “Jarhead” boring at first, but for the next few days he talked about how it accurately portrayed the truth of war as he saw it, even though he was on the front lines in Vietnam: War is mostly boring, but the horrendous experience never leaves you.Or, as the narrator, Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) puts it, he will always think about holding his rifle in his hands, even when he’s touching a woman. In the end, he points out: “Every war is different; every war is the same.” This movie finally gives us a more intimate perspective on the personal costs of war.


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