Jarhead (2005)

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Released 22-May-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-King Kong
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Sam Mendes (Director)
Audio Commentary-William Broyles (Screenwriter) & Anthony Swofford (Author)
Featurette-Swoff's Fantasies, With Optional Commentary
Featurette-News Interviews In Full, With Optional Commentary
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Commentary
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 117:42
RSDL / Flipper RSDL ( 75:01) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sam Mendes
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal
Scott MacDonald
Peter Sarsgaard
Jamie Foxx
Lo Ming
Lucas Black
Kevin Foster
Brian Geraghty
Damion Poitier
Riad Galayini
Craig Coyne
Katherine Randolph
Rini Bell
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Kurt Cobain
Thomas Newman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Hungarian
Dutch
Danish
Finnish
Hebrew
Norwegian
Swedish
English Audio Commentary
Hungarian Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Danish Audio Commentary
Finnish Audio Commentary
Hebrew Audio Commentary
Norwegian Audio Commentary
Swedish Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Hungarian Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Danish Audio Commentary
Finnish Audio Commentary
Hebrew Audio Commentary
Norwegian Audio Commentary
Swedish Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, opening credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Jarhead, from UK born director Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition, American Beauty), focuses on one man's experience just prior to and during the first Gulf War. Anthony Swofford, "Swoff", played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Day After Tomorrow) has joined the elite Sniper Corps in the US Marines.

    In the vein of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, this film takes us through boot camp training, which is both physically and mentally arduous. However, unlike Kubrick's perhaps over-rated film, Jarhead maintains a sense of humour, albeit a strange one at times, throughout this part of the film. Swoff, and his new buddy Alan Troy (Peter Sarsgaard) are soon called up for duty in the Gulf following Saddam Hussein's invasion and annexing of Kuwait.

    The rest of the film focuses on these two guys facing the boredom of being in the middle of a desert and just waiting for some 'action'. Their platoon is led by Staff Sergeant Sykes (played by Jamie Foxx) who is a Marine through-and-through and tries valiantly to do his duty and keep his men safe and effective. This is in a war that has largely rendered their hard-won skills of sniping somewhat passé in the face of large-scale 'solutions' like smart bombs and massive aerial bombardment of targets.

    The entire film is told from Swoff's point of view, which is quite understandable given that it was based on his own book recounting his experiences. While the film follows the book in general, there are a number of areas in which Mendes and screenwriter William Broyles have chosen to vary the story, undoubtedly to make it more film-worthy.

    Mendes has managed to squeeze a great many aspects of the war, such as the overwhelming boredom, friendly-fire incidents, burning oil wells, interpersonal relationships, wild parties, and disciplinary action  into the film's 2 hours. This ends up feeling a little clichéd at times, almost as if we're watching 'highlights' of the War, which perhaps was Mendes' intention.

    I felt it was an enjoyable film, beautifully made, but ultimately lacking in 'feeling'. Though it focused on key characters, including of course Swofford, somehow I felt that I wasn't drawn into the film enough to really empathise enough with anyone on screen. I didn't really care what happened to Swofford, Troy or any of the major characters, although they were each well characterised (and acted). Partly it might have been knowing that this was set in a war that was overwhelmingly won by the US (and allies), and partly because Mendes just put too many different events on screen in a relatively short time. It might well have been his desire to keep the viewer at a certain distance, to make them watch events unfold in a somewhat objective manner.

    There was a nice humour that ran throughout this film, even during what would otherwise be rather dark moments. This occasionally added an almost surreal quality to proceedings.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    A wonderful visual experience thanks to a superb, fault-free video transfer.

    The transfer is presented in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture is sharp at all times with wonderful shadow detail even in some difficult scenes. There was no visible grain nor any low level noise.

    The colour palette was superbly captured in this transfer. Cinematographer Roger Deakins' ( The Village, House of Sand and Fog beautiful colours and use of exposure was very well presented with no hint of colour bleed or oversaturation.

    There were no visible MPEG or film artefacts.

    Subtitles were available in many languages and were presented in a white font. I sampled the English subtitles and found they were well timed to onscreen dialogue and captured the spoken words very closely.

    The layer change point occurred at 75:01 and resulted in a pause of just half a second. This point was well placed in a scene that was silent anyway, so minimised the disruption.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Like the video, the audio has been superbly captured on this disc.

    The primary soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1, which is available in English as well as Hungarian. Both sound equally good.

    Dialogue is clear at all times, and well synced to the actors' lip movements.

    The music by Thomas Newman (Cinderella Man, Finding Nemo, American Beauty) is somewhat unusual, with some distinct Arabic flavours, though never overwhelmingly so. There are also a number of contemporary rock and rap songs (There's also almost an in-joke from one of the characters about the songs used in many Vietnam war movies!)

    The rear surrounds are in use almost continuously, though some times only subtly. There are, however, plenty of examples of pans from front to rear speakers as well as discrete sounds in the rear speakers.

    The subwoofer is well used to support the deep bass for music and explosions and gunfire.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu Audio

    The startup was somewhat annoyingly structured. First you had to pick a language (not so bad), but then after sitting through the non-fastforwardable copyright warnings, you were confronted with the annoying Anti-piracy ad. (I'm not commenting about the message, just about its obnoxious delivery!). Interesting to see that loud and annoying Anti piracy ad in Hungarian, where they've taken the trouble to insert text in the appropriate language!  It's still annoying though...

    Then after that pops up a trailer for King Kong , which you can thankfully skip through. All this before you finally get to the main menu, which features some scenes and music from the film.

Audio Commentary

    There are two audio commentary tracks on this DVD.

    The first one by director Sam Mendes is very interesting and entertaining. It covers pretty much all aspects of making the film, including discussion about locations, actors, cinematography and music. Mendes mentions documentaries that are not on this DVD, perhaps indicating that a 2-disc 'special edition' might follow. I've read unconfirmed reports that due to copyright problems these documentaries that he refers to are only included on the US version of the DVD.

    The second commentary track is by screenwriter William Broyles (Polar Express, Castaway) and the author of the original book, Anthony Swofford. These two guys provide plenty of information on the story, especially on the transfer from book to screenplay. A little bit dry compared to Mendes' commentary, but nevertheless an enjoyable listen. There's also much background about both men's experiences in the Marines, albeit in different conflicts with different outcomes.

Featurette - Swoff's Fantasies (runtime 6:14)

   I think these scenes were considered for the film but never actually included. The viewer can choose to listen to the original soundtrack or, more usefully, commentary by director Mendes and editor Walter Murch who give great detail about the scenes and why they were left out.

    Each can be selected individually, or all can be played using a 'Play All' option.

Featurette - News Interviews in Full

    Extended versions of the 'interviews' with Troy, Swofford and others in the platoon that were featured in the film itself. Again, the listener can choose to listen to the original audio, or commentary from the director and editor.

Deleted Scenes

    No less than 11 separate scenes that were left out from the final theatrical release. These have been provided at 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. One of the scenes was the original opening to the film. Once again, the viewer can choose to hear the original sound, or commentary by Mendes and Murch. Very good inclusion.

    Each can be selected individually, or all can be played using a 'Play All' option.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    From what I can ascertain, the R1 version differs to the R4 version only in the language soundtracks provided (French and Spanish). Also, the R1 version is available in a fullscreen (pan and scan) version in addition to the 'widescreen' version, though the extras seem identical on each. The documentaries mentioned by the director in his commentary don't seem to be on the current R1 release. Apparently these 'missing' documentaries were released on the very early R1 versions, but were removed thereafter.

    So unless, you were keen on getting a 'fullscreen' version, stick with the R4 release.

Summary

    Viewers hoping for a combat-driven war film might be a little disappointed, as Jarhead really focuses on the 'man' and his relationship with other combatants, the environment, and most of all, his inner self. There's actually very little shown in the way of combat. There really haven't been many high quality productions based on the Gulf War so there's little to compare Jarhead with, other than Vietnam war movies like Platoon or Full Metal Jacket. The latter is perhaps closest to Jarhead, at least in the concept of taking the viewer through the soldier's initial training and into actual conflict. However a problem I found with both films is that neither drew me into them enough...I felt too much like an observer on the outside looking in. On the other hand I remember being thoroughly engrossed when watching Platoon, even on repeat viewings. Perhaps our media coverage of recent conflicts like the Gulf Wars has been so prevalent that the 'mystery' element of the war has diminished somewhat?

    Jarhead is a very well made film, that features wonderful cinematography and sound design, and has been exceptionally well transferred on this DVD. The picture quality and sound quality are both top notch. A DTS soundtrack would have been even better (but aren't they always?). The extras are quite comprehensive, especially considering it's a single disk release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Satish Rajah (don't read my bio!)
Monday, June 19, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output
DisplaySony KV-XA34M31 80cm. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2801
SpeakersMain: Mission 753; Centre: Mission m7c2; rear: Mission 77DS; Sub: JBL PB10

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Jarhead criticism - wolfgirv
2 disk SE was released in both R1 and R3 but both now OOP -
Full Metal Jacket -