'Welcome to the suck' is a line that is uttered time and time again in this film, but it is not an indication of the quality of the film. The attention grabbing title of the film comes from the self-appointed nickname for the Marines. They go by this nickname because the brush cuts they sport in the Marines makes their heads look like jars. Jarhead is a movie full of first person experience and realism about what it was like to be an American Marine around the time of Desert Storm in the late 1980s. The movie is based upon a novel written by Anthony Swofford, a Fine Arts graduate from the University of Iowa and a former American Marine. The novel Jarhead was a best seller in 2003 and the movie is also destined to do well at the box office. The film, screenplay written by William Broyles Jr. (The Polar Express and Unfaithful), is chock full of difficult scenes to watch and you sit through the movie feeling uncomfortable most of the time. Now for most films this would be a bad thing, but for a film dealing with the experiences of soldiers during the Desert Storm campaign this is just good film making. Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty and Road To Perdition) is not capable of making a bad film, I believe. He brilliantly juxtaposes loud, dirty war scenes with quiet poignant ones throughout the film, thus rendering what happens even more touching and real. His films are all gritty and do not try to 'pretty' up life, thus leading you to lose yourself within his creations. By the time you come out of one of Mendes' films you feel as you have lived the experiences he is depicting. There are some beautiful and colourful shots of the desert in Jarhead. Unlike many war films, Jarhead does not have much combat action. The troops during this campaign spent most of their time just sitting around in the desert and did not really engage in too much armed combat. We are led to question why the troops were even sent there. The acting of Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx and Peter Sarsgaard is all top notch and lends to the believability of the film. Another strong point of this film is that it resists the urge to get up on a soapbox and show how wrong the military and war are. The film remains focused on one man's experience in the military.
Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal – The Good Girl and Proof) enlists in the Marines because he father and grandfather were also in the Marines. The film follows Swofford through his experiences at boot camp to his active duty in the deserts of Kuwait. From the beginning Swofford's experience in the Marines is not a pleasant one. One day while he is in the latrine sick, Sergeant Sykes (Jamie Foxx – Stealth and Any Given Sunday) recruits him into the scout/sniper division of the Marines. Swofford, who is assigned to be a sniper, is paired with Troy (Peter Sarsgaard – Kinsey and FlightPlan), a fellow Marine who he looks towards as a mentor. The STA division is sent to the deserts of Saudi Arabia when Sadaam Hussein attacks Kuwait. Upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, Lieutenant Colonel Kazinski (Chris Cooper – Capote and The Bourne Identity) tells the troops that they have not been authorized to fight yet, so their mandate is to just watch and protect the oil wells. For many months the STA division spends its time training in the desert, being filmed for U.S. news reports and being bored. Swofford spends most of his time worrying if his girlfriend Kristina (Brianne Davis – first feature film) back home is remaining faithful to him. The idea of this slowly starts to drive Swofford mad. After being in the desert for almost 6 months, Troy and Swofford are given an assignment to shoot two Iraqi officers. They are excited about their chance to get a kill, but just before they are about to carry out their assignment they are stopped by a higher ranking officer (Dennis Haysbert – Far From Heaven and Waiting to Exhale). Troy is really upset and suffers a breakdown. When Swofford and Troy return to the base they find out that the war is over and they never had a chance to even fire their weapons.
-"Swoff's Fantasies" featurette with commentary by director Sam Mendes and editor Walter Murch
-News interviews in full with commentary by director Sam Mendes and editor Walter Murch
-Deleted scenes with introduction by director Sam Mendes and editor Walter Murch