Full Metal Jacket (1987)

4.5 STARS

General Information:

The information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093058/

18  116 min  –  Drama | War   –  11 September 1987 (UK)

Director

Stanley Kubrick

Writers

Stanley Kubrick; Michael Herr

Stars

Matthew Modine; R. Lee Ermey; Vincent D’Onofrio

Plot:

A film showing how the marines are turned into trained killers who are ‘born to kill’. The first half of the film showing us how they are dehumanised by boot-camp, and the second half showing us how they cope with a cold, savage and at points: brutal – war.

Review:

Kubrick’s penultimate film before his untimely death is a Vietnam film like no other. Rather than recognising Vietnam as an ‘American tragedy’, Full Metal Jacket take a different more refreshing stance, as it represents it as what it really was: a human one. It is a film of two halves: the first half showing how the marines are turned from emotive humans into savage, mechanical (almost robotic) killers. The second half shows us how these marines cope in what they were training for in boot-camp: the Vietnam war itself.

Kubrick has often been criticised for making ‘cold’ and ‘inhuman’ films, yet perhaps – for me, anyway – this film doesn’t follow this rule. Take a quick look at the plot and the content, we can see that this is the above, yet the emotions it triggers are the opposite. Full Metal Jacket doesn’t leave you cold as it is triggers a variety of emotions. Perhaps the most obvious is sympathy. Throughout this film, we see the atrocities of war, and it is almost as if Kubrick is shouting out to us about what is ‘wrong’ about it. Yet, it doesn’t portray war as necessarily a bad thing (as this film rightfully stays out of the politics of Vietnam), it more or less portrays what happens in war (atrocities, blood-shed etc) to be the bad thing.

Full Metal Jacket presents us with the relationships of the soldiers perfectly, especially between Private Pyle and Joker. Their relationship is attached and detached simultaneously – most obviously detached when Joker takes part in the bullying of Pyle, and when he stands still and does nothing in the infamous bathroom scene.

However, I have only awarded it 4.5 stars, I feel that this film doesn’t have the hard-edge like Kubrick’s earlier war masterpieces such as ‘Dr Strangelove’ and ‘Paths of Glory’. Yet, I must point out that a Kubrick film tends to grow on you, you simply cannot just watch it once (I have only seen it once). Each time you watch a Kubrick you’ll notice something that you didn’t even see the previous time you watched it, so I imagine that if I watch this again, it will go from 4.5 stars to 5 stars.

Full Metal Jacket is a riveting tale about how war dehumanises soldiers to the extent of just making them ‘killers’. It is disturbing, entertaining, gripping and filled with scathingly dark wit – Full Metal Jacket is definitely not to be missed.

Verdict:

A film that strikes hard and makes a point straight off. Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket is savage in plot, sharp in dialogue and scathing in humour. It is powerful, satirical, disturbing and definately makes a point about how inhuman war is.

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Donnie Darko (2001)

4 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0246578/

15  113 min  –  Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi   –  25 October 2002 (UK)

Director

Richard Kelly

Writer

Richard Kelly

Stars

Jake Gyllenhaal; Jena Malone; Mary McDonnell

Plot:

Donnie Darko is awoken one night by a rabbit called ‘Frank’ who forewarns him that the world is going to end. Donnie must find a way to prevent this apocalyptic occurence from happening…

Review:

Donnie Darko is easily one of the most bizarre films I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. So surreal in fact that it is very hard to some-up, let alone review. My mind feels mashed up and if anything ‘distorted’ after watching it.

Well, where do I start? It’s about a young teenage boy called ‘Donnie Darko’. One night, he experiences a vision from a rabbit (called ‘Frank’), as you do.

By chance, he has the vision outside just as the engine of a plane falls mysteriously from the sky and lands in Donnie’s room, as you do.

If Donnie wasn’t outside, he’d by dead. Coincidence? God knows, like I said: the film offers no easy answers. The rabbit he sees tells him that in a few days the end of the world will happen. This provides the film with its uniqueness in its narrative, as it provides the film with a sort of ‘countdown structure’. Countdown to the end of the world that is, obviously.

This film is a surreal pile of ideas: what does Frank, the rabbit mean? Does he even mean anything? If he does, does he represent something? Why would you call a rabbit ‘Frank’? What does the love and fear chart represent?  By the amount of questions posed, this film is one that challenges its audience, and it will take more than one viewing to ‘understand’. In fact, I don’t even think you can understand this film. It’s too ambiguous and too random. The film folds on itself repeatedly and has various hairpin turns so much so that you literally cannot ‘guess till the end’. Guessing would be pointless as the film is so mad that you just have to watch it rather than attempt to work out what will happen next when you’re half way through viewing.

Verdict:

An intriguingly original film from the outset, Donnie Darko is a film that will punch all of the senses out of you with its hyper-crazy plot and look. Bizarre from the beginning, and by the end: heart breaking.

Saw (2004)

2.5 STARS

General Information

The information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387564/

18  103 min  –  Crime | Horror | Mystery   –  1 October 2004 (UK)

Director

James Wan

Writors

Leigh Whannell; James Wan

Stars

Cary Elwes; Leigh Whannell; Danny Glover

Plot:

Two men are shackled by their legs to a pipe in a locked bathroom; in the next six hours they must find out how to win Jigsaw’s twisted ‘game’. If they win: they are allowed to live. And if they lose: they die.

Review:

Saw is easily the most talked-about horror film ever made. Even though it’s not the best. Every time the subject of horror films comes up, Saw is always mentioned. Why? Well, probably something to do with its ‘twisted’ and deranged plot, nauseating cinematography, plot twists and so much gore that you’ll throw up in some poor unfortunate soul’s face. Not only that, but it’s one of the first horror films I have ever seen where the victims – will, if they like – kill themselves if they don’t want to be killed by the madman.

I shall explain: the serial killer (known to the cult following as: ‘Jigsaw‘) finds victims who have something ‘wrong’ with their lives. (Which seems odd coming from somebody who shackles a random doctor and photographer to a pipe in an old abandoned bathroom and then forces them to have to hack off their feet otherwise they will die. But hey, that’s horror for you.) Jigsaw then tests his victims to see how much they respect their own lives, so in this case, Dr Gordon must hack his own foot off to escape survive. Obviously we must realise that realism wasn’t at the forefront of the writers’ mind’s here.

However, this film, I feel, could’ve been better. This is a horror which works on showing you a lot of gore. Good horrors work on psychology and pace to leave you frightened and at the edge if your seat. Saw does the latter, but not the first. This is the problem: it could’ve been so much better, but unfortunately, it’s not. Instead, the camera has to show you Dr Gordon hacking his foot off – blood, tissue, cartilage, bones an’ all. Let’s compare it to a good horror: Halloween. A masterpiece of horror this is, makes me jump and leaves me stone-cold terrified. It’s paced well, leaves me compelled and when it comes to murder, shows some blood but not so much you feel like vomiting. So if we compare it to such a masterpiece: Saw is a failure with a capital ‘F’. However, I am being a tad harsh. I did like Saw in the sense that it was intriguing in terms that it rewarded us. It gives you a satisfied feeling when you view each of the twists and never even saw them coming, it satisfied me with its complex structure as it had flashbacks and flashbacks in flashbacks, in a strangely perverse way, it satisfied me with how original each torture device was (note to self: the writers have spent time thinking about the methods of torture.) Not only that but the pacing also satisfied me, it was fast-paced and in that sense, an okay thriller. However, when I think of a thriller, I’d rather watch The Silence of The Lambs or Se7en.

The acting I cannot judge. How can I judge if it is realistic. Is it over the top? God knows. We can always find out by doing an ‘experiment’ on a random, unfortunate member of the public, however, I feel, that would be illegal.

The script however is shocking. You can tell by the dialogue. It’s the sort of dialogue which shows one-dimensional characters. Obviously, I must point out, that this is horror – so believability isn’t everything. Halloween doesn’t attempt character development on an RSC level, but at least the characters are ‘believable’ (note the clever use of quotation marks there). It’s the sort of dialogue which shows that each character plays the same emotion throughout. One character may be the shouty-screaming one, and all he does is shout and scream. That’s it. Another one, may be the ‘calm down’-let’s-think-about-this-there-must-be-some-sort-of-logical-explanation-behind-this sort of person, and all he ever does is say say: ‘calm down’, ‘let’s think about this’ and ‘there must be some sort of logical explanation behind this’.

However, Saw isn’t about character development. It’s about the moment: the moment where they realise they’re chained to a pipe, or, the moment when Doctor Gordon realises that he must do the unthinkable and the moment when the film ends and the title credits role up.

Overall, Saw isn’t rubbish, but it isn’t good either.

However, I must point out: that ending, my God, I didn’t expect that. Genius.

Verdict:

A well thought out film in terms of plotting, ideas, structure and pace. However it’s also dumb, overly-sadistic to its audience (and victims), and could be better at scaring us.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

5 STARS

General Information:

The information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066921/ 

 18     136 min  –  Crime | Drama | Sci-Fi   –  13 January 1972 (UK)

Director:

Stanley Kubrick

Writor:

Stanley Kubrick

Stars:

Malcolm McDowell; Patrick Magee; Warren Clarke

Plot:

Alex and his droogs go around beating, raping, robbing and generally having ‘fun’ at the unfortunate expense of their victims. Yet when young Alex is caught by the police and is entered into a new brainwashing experiment designed as a quick-fix to decrease crime rates and overcrowded prisons, Alex loses more than he bargained for.

Review:

The first time we see the anti-hero, Alex, in A Clockwork Orange is in the first scene – which is a close-up shot of him and his droogs in the Korova milkbar drinking milk (containing heroine). From this point onwards we can sense that Alex is evil, yet likeable, which is key to Alex’s character; he has a devilish grin as he ponders what ‘fun’ he’ll be getting up to in the evening. (He beats up a tramp and rapes a woman in front of her husband).

The film is a viewing experience like no other: it is funny, disturbing, brutal, hypnotic – and throughout you get the urge to look away, but you can’t. We are drawn in by Alex’s character, which is key to this film, as it helps us to sort of understand why he commits these crimes. There were points in this film where I laughed at Alex’s crimes due to the slapstick and stylisation involved, yet afterwards I felt guilty and disturbed by myself for laughing. This film challenges us morally as it sucks out our dark instincts, our inner caveman, our primal forces – which are of course: violence and sex. But in the case of Alex: ‘ultra-violence’ and rape.

The film is also mesmerising to look at, dreamlike tracking shots, surreal and colourful sets,  slow-motion shots, all of these techniques have been used carefully and precisely by Kubrick used to add more cinematic force to this mesmerizing film.

Without revealing too much of the plot, Alex is caught by the police and is then arrested for one of the brutal crimes he has committed in the film. From this point on, the film becomes more serious as the philosophical and satirical elements are seemlessly mixed in by Kubrick; and the ‘controversial’ aspects – of which the film is known for (violence and rape) –  dumb down a bit.

Once Alex is in prison he is selected to be part of a new technique aimed to reform criminals by forcing them to be good. Here various questions are posed: should criminals be forced to be good in order to reduce crime levels? Should criminals be forced to do good even though good comes from within? Is this right? Does Alex deserve this? Does he deserve his free-will stripped away from him? And the most important question of all: is this the future we are heading towards? A future where lawa and order have broken down so much that mob culture rules; and the government is forced to go to drastic measures to clean the country back up again.

A Clockwork Orange is shocking, honest, brutal, funny and as sharp and surreal as any Kubrick film; by far, his best work.

Verdict:

Violence and rape makes this shocking. Yet the second and third half of the film make it thought provoking. Funny at points and definitely disturbing at the beginning, the film will leave you with quite a lot to think about.