Jarhead subverts the expectations of conventional Middle Eastern war movies. Instead of lingering in jingoism and death, it focuses on the boredom of the misplaced pent up soldiers who are left to wait for violence to find them.
The Sam Mendes effort takes clear inspiration from Full Metal Jacket, taking the brutality of the training camps from the first half and merging them with the glacial surreality and loneliness of the second.
This is a film where nothing goes right for its disillusioned depressed sniper protagonist (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and his band of brothers in the desert. It’s a work where under the scorching sun, men are left to decay from boredom and malnutrition, experience just enough of war’s stench to scar them without any release for their pent up bloodlust.
Jarhead is a document of its time. Its abrasiveness and general presentation might not be appealing to audience members not into Mendes’ aggressive style, but for those who wish to see the psychology of war from those who don’t get to kill, you could do a lot worse.