A Brief Explanation of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987)

2nd Viewing

Warning: Thematic Spoilers Ahead

Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket: the death of individuality and the birth of sheer masculinity. It’s certainly no coincidence that most of us fight with dualism in our personality, but that in some fashion is what has created an artificial disorder in ourselves. Fighting between society’s standards of who we should be and fighting between how we simply are in singularity is humankind’s greatest battle among the brain. Legendary auteur, Kubrick uses the outlet of war to personify these themes and does so by showing the varying decay of two main characters (Joker and Pyle) who are sent to boot camp to fight in Vietnam. 

The First Half of Full Metal Jacket

Pyle’s character arc is proof in the movie’s essence that duality cannot flourish peacefully in the human self. To reach pure prosperity, you either embrace your individuality or you choose to lose it. The more conflict you generate trying to balance these oppositions in your humanity, the more likely you are to drive yourself into mental pandemonium, as Pyle’s character ends up doing. Sergeant Hartman attempted his very best to transform Pyle into the killing machine that the war sought for within its soldiers, yet Pyle was still inclined to keep his character due to the partial motivation he gained from Joker. This tug-a-war of identity was what slipped Pyle into instability as shown during the conclusion to the first half of Full Metal Jacket

The Second Half of Full Metal Jacket

The new character, Animal Mother signifies the meat-headed, heartless killer that Sergeant Hartman wanted out of Pyle—the ideal outlook of someone 100% content with his robotic masculinity that the war has pushed upon him. Joker, however, towards the beginning of the movie, is the ideal paradigm of the distinctiveness in the individual—a cocky, likable, funny, and well-spoken young man. Yet, Joker at the end of the movie becomes the incarnation of someone who’s individuality had been infected due to war. In a way, Joker had partially stopped becoming Joker. His determined individuality had perished. The ending showed that even the most idiosyncratic of people could be turned by peer pressure. He had become another cog in the machine of braindead violence, unable to become who he fully was before or regain the innocence that he had just lost, and that LONG take of him staring into the eyes of his victim confirms this indefinitely. It appears that Joker’s final quote in Full Metal Jacket really is the biggest irony of the entire film: “I’m so happy that I am alive in one piece.” 

Leftover Thoughts…

Sure, in a consecutive manner, Kubrick’s war flick has an unforgivably rocky sequence of events that gets a bit too contextually jumpy for its own good. Yet, despite that being a pretty “major” inadequacy that most films should try to constantly avoid, it’s about the only “major” inadequacy that I have with Full Metal Jacket. As I said before, the majority of the motion picture is an intuitive goldmine on the destruction of the human spirit. Plus, right behind Dr. Strangelove, this is easily Kubrick’s second funniest film—thanks, R. Lee Ermey for your god-tier performance as the main war sergeant.

Verdict Change: A+ —> A

Stanley Kubrick Ranked 

“Full Metal Jacket” is now available to stream on Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime.

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