Jarhead (HD DVD) (2005)

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Released 6-Feb-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Sam Mendes (Director)
Audio Commentary-William Broyles Jr. (Screenwriter) & Anthony Swofford (Autho
Deleted Scenes-Swoff's Fantasies (6:12)
Deleted Scenes-News Interviews In Full (16:35)
Deleted Scenes-(19:09)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Video Diary (30:38)
Featurette-Background (30:53)
Featurette-Semper Fi: Life After The Corps (35:59)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 122:34
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sam Mendes
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal
Scott MacDonald
Peter Sarsgaard
Jamie Foxx
Lo Ming
Lucas Black
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Thomas Newman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
German Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Catalan Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement Unknown
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Italian
Catalan
Portuguese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    "This is my rifle. There are others like it, but this one is mine. Without my rifle I am nothing..."

    Jarhead outlines the story of Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal), a new recruit who finds himself in boot camp after "getting lost on the way to college". It's amazing how many careers start out that way. The film is actually based on an autobiographical book of the same name, written by the real Anthony Swofford, a former serviceman in the Gulf War. The story follows Tony from his enrolment in boot camp, through the rigorous training of the Marines, and finally his service in Operation Desert Storm.

    Initially, Tony hates the Marines and tries to cause a great deal of trouble so as to be ejected. Feigning illness is also given a try, but to no avail. His laziness and contempt for the job soon turns to obsession when he is offered the role of Scout Sniper by Sgt. Sykes (Jamie Foxx), a hard, yet humorous character who sees an intelligence in Swofford that would be better applied in his unit. Once he has found his niche, Swofford takes to the role with gusto and begins to appreciate the regimented discipline of the Corps.

    Once their training is complete, they are assigned partners and continue their exercises in hope of one day using their skills to find the elusive pink mist; the sign of having made a kill. That day eventually arrives when Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait, and operation Desert Shield is spun into action. Sgt. Sykes' unit is one of the first to be sent to the Gulf, their mission being to protect the Kuwaiti oil fields and remain physically hydrated as best they can. Nothing happens in the desert for a long time; the endless patrolling and mundane routines lead to some strange activities, until ultimately intense boredom and loneliness set in.

    The men are bored silly and itching for a battle, and by the time Desert Shield becomes Desert Storm, Swofford is on the verge of losing his mind; both of boredom and because of deep-seated fears of infidelity on the part of his girlfriend back home. It is common for the men to tease each other about absent girlfriends or wives, however Tony begins to grow insanely jealous, reading whatever he can between every line of his distant girlfriend's letters with intense scrutiny. He is finally offered an important mission, to take out some high-ranking officers across the border. Can he keep a lid on his emotions long enough to fulfill the task and make it home?

    Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road To Perdition) has made a good attempt at showing the futility of war, but it somehow falls a little short of the magic of such classics as The Thin Red Line and Apocalypse Now. A story such as this could have been approached from many alternate angles, however his direction is decidedly conventional here. Viewing the deleted scenes and hearing the accompanying commentary reveals just how different this film might have been, had they have been a little more daring in the cutting room. Having said that, the ensemble cast are brilliant in every respect and clearly relished their roles.

    Having been in the news recently for their friendly errors in Iraq, this film poignantly portrays the US military as inept and disorganised, and like a great many other war films, ultimately displays the futility of service and the frustration of those who must return home to a 'normal' life.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080p. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 720p. More information can be found here.

    Jarhead has been transferred to HD DVD in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, at 1080p resolution. It's worth noting that viewers who are used to a faster PAL frame rate might notice camera pans are not quite as smooth, because HD DVD is encoded with 24 frames per second, which also avoids audio pitch issues. Current HD DVD players output this signal at 60Hz, with a 3:2 pulldown effect to ensure compatibility with current display technology. The higher resolution and brilliant colour reproduction of HD DVD more than make up for any such shortcomings.

    I reviewed this HD DVD on my Sanyo Z2 LCD projector (scaling to 720p) via a Toshiba HD-D1, which is limited to 1080i. I currently use a HDMI to DVI-D converter to display the HDCP encoded video signal.

    The transfer is very crisp, with a great degree of depth to the image. The detailed landscapes, sand, dust and smoke would be problematic for SD DVD, but here they are transferred with beautiful detail. Shadow detail is excellent. There are quite a few dark, shadowy scenes and these are presented with a nice depth and not a hint of noise or missing detail. Black levels are absolutely jet when need be.

    As mentioned in the Director's audio commentary, the film has an intentional, desaturated appearance throughout- almost bordering on sepia at times. Some small grabs of colour are highlighted by this process, drawing attention to certain colourful objects and props. There are no colour rendering issues in the slightest.

    The video quality drops significantly at 35:00 to emulate the appearance of a TV broadcast. Other stylistic tools have been applied, such as the use of grainy Super 16mm film for flashback sequences.

    There are no problems with the film source, no visible telecine wobble and no dire artefacts aside from a few tiny specs here and there. A very mild degree of film grain is visible in some scenes, but never becomes detrimental to the crisp quality of the transfer. The image is completely void of any compression issues, be it grain, blocking or haloing. Edge enhancement is also absent. Having been on a long stint of HD material in the last few days, I'm quite nervous about going back to some of my waiting SD collection!

    I viewed a fair portion of the film with the English subtitles activated and found them to be accurate to the spoken word. The font is an arial style, rounded white with a black outline and very easy to read. At 65:55 there are some English subtitles burned into the video stream to translate a short passage of Spanish dialogue.

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

Audio

    There are a total of seven soundtrack options accompanying this film on HD DVD. The default soundtrack depends upon on your language selection in the opening menu. Language options include English, French, Italian, German and Catalan Spanish, all presented in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1. There are also two feature commentaries, outlined in the extras below.

    Dolby Digital Plus is close to the bitrate of common dts audio that we are more accustomed to. It is said that some AV receivers will process the Dolby Digital Plus stream as dts, however I have set up my Toshiba HD-D1 to process the audio on board and output it as 5.1 96KHz PCM via HDMI. I'm really looking forward to reviewing a film with lossless audio, so hopefully that's not too far away.

    The English dialogue is crystal clear and never obscured by effects or score. Being a relatively noisy war film, you would expect many scenes to contain dialogue and explosions happening at the same time, and this one does have them, but the dialogue between characters is always distinct. The film's ADR is absolutely seamless. Audio sync is perfect.

    The use of the surround channels extends from subtle effects such as falling mud and echoes to passing shells, explosions and flying bullets. Surround activity is virtually constant. When there are minimal effects present, the rear channels are occupied by the highly innovative, thought provoking score by Thomas Newman. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel and rarely stray.

    Besides the aforementioned score by Thomas Newman, additional soundtrack songs include such artists as Tom Waits, Bobby McFerrin, Nirvana, The Doors and Public Enemy, just to name a few.

    The subwoofer is used nicely to augment awesome effects such as explosions, passing vehicles and assorted weaponry.

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

Extras

    This is a pretty good selection of extras. Bear in mind that although the cover slick states that the Deleted Scenes, Swoff's Fantasies and News Interviews are presented in 1080p, their quality doesn't nearly match that of the feature. The remaining extras are presented in plain old 480i.

Menu

    Remember when DVD first started, how the studios had generic menus that were very similar from one title to the next? Like the Serenity HD DVD disc, the language select menu loads first, followed by the main menu. It took roughly two minutes to reach the main menu, which includes haunting audio from the score and some barren desert scenes looping in the background. The menu navigation is virtually identical to Universal's Serenity disc.

Audio Commentary- Sam Mendes (Director)

    Mendes discusses some of his experiences during filming, the locations that were used, and mentions the film's intentional desaturated colouring. He points out scenes that were re-shot and notes many that were cut during the editing phase. Sam often speculates on the film's relationship to the novel of the same name and he proudly highlights improvisations on set that made it into film, likening his actors to good Jazz musicians with the ability to improvise over a set piece. Sam is a great speaker, never boring, although there are some lengthy breaks at times.

Audio Commentary- William Broyles Jr. (Screenwriter) & Anthony Swofford (Author)

    Bill Broyles served in Vietnam and has a son in Iraq, so it is very interesting to listen-in as he is questioned about his service by Swofford. The two men discuss specific scenes from the film and how they compare to their experiences in the military. They also discuss certain plot threads that were intended to flow throughout the film, some of which were intended to be recognised by the viewer, some not. Broyles goes on to explain the elements of the novel that make it suitable for film adaptation. I was pleased to hear Swofford state his personal happiness with Jake's portrayal of him in the film. This is a fantastic, informative commentary.

Alternate Scenes- Swoff's Fantasies (6:12)

    There are extended and alternate cuts of five familiar scenes from the film, all with an optional commentary from Director Sam Mendes and Editor Walter Murch.

Extended Scenes- News Interviews In Full (16:35)

    These pieces show the actors improvising for the television interview scenes with an optional commentary from Director Sam Mendes and Editor Walter Murch.

Deleted Scenes (19:09)

    We have twelve deleted scenes in total, also with an optional commentary from Mendes and Murch. The highlight of these is easily Sam Rockwell's appearance as Tony's Uncle.

Featurette- Behind The Scenes- Video Diary (30:38)

    The cast were issued with handheld cameras and the footage that was captured on set and in training is presented here. The makers of the film wanted the actors to have a hard time with the training and form some kind of camaraderie together. There are a great deal of laughs as you would expect, and it is a relief to see that Jamie Fox needs no encouragement to launch into a Ray Charles impersonation. This, and the two below featurettes, are all presented in 1.33:1.

Featurette- Background (30:53)

    A documentary about the 1500 extras that appeared in the film, their casting, and the requirements they had to fulfill in order to get the work. Some of these  are actually former marines who not surprisingly had a hard time on set, finding the film too similar to their actual experiences in Kuwait.

Featurette- Semper Fi: Life After The Corps (35:59)

    Including a voice over by Jarhead Author Anthony Swofford, these are stories of several genuine soldiers who returned home from the war to different lives altogether. We follow them as they try to find work, and describe the emotional aspect of warfare and how hard it was to begin life again as a civilian. The stories are intimate and revealing, but on the whole it is repetitive as the same stock footage of the Gulf War is recycled over and over.

R4 vs R1

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

    This HD DVD release is identical in features across the globe. It also contains more extra features than the Region 4 single disc edition, reviewed by my colleague SatzR here.

    I should note that while the cover slick is labeled with our Australian ratings logos, the disc itself is clearly branded with various European ratings. So, ours is practically an import of the Euro release.

Summary

    Jarhead is an interesting journey, following one soldier's service from boot camp to the front line. The performances and cinematography are simply outstanding. Those who enjoyed classics such as Saving Private Ryan or The Thin Red Line are certain to appreciate this film.

    The video transfer is crystal clear and free of any unsightly artefacting, as such a recent film should be.

    The audio transfer is quite involving.

    The extras are revealing and pertinent to the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba HD-D1, using HDMI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR3806
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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