I went to see this movie with great apprehension. Another shoot em up war movie, I thought. But it was the only one showing at the theatre we like that showed an ounce of promise. That ounce quickly flashed into pounds as I sat there fixated on the beautiful editing, the remarkable acting, and the unexplained imagery.
Much like the movie Three Kings, the desert scenes were shot with an endless ability to make sand and nothingness glaring art. Scenes of rolling white sands, gushing pools of black oil, and the distorted waves of heat all lifted the viewers from their cushioned theatre seats to the middle of the arid desert.
The acting by all the major characters was more than compelling, and aside from Peter Sarsgaard whom I was already a fan, also surprising. The shear anger portrayed by Gyllenhaal and the lonely loyalty portrayed by Sarsgaard were heartbreaking and so real. I truly believe that Sarsgaard and Jake Gyllenhaal both deserve Oscar nominations for these performances.
But the one aspect of this film that I find most intriguing and powerful was the absence of useless explanation. This movie went out of its way not to insult the intelligence of its audience. There was much left to our own discovery and introspection. That is what I appreciated most.
Regardless of one’s feelings about war in general or the Gulf Wars in particular, there were impacts made by this film that cannot be denied. The horrifying emotions of soldiers from yesterday and today will likely never be completely understood. But films like Jarhead provide the much needed shed of light on their emotional plights during war and for the rest of their lives. Being able to illuminate these dark realities with comedy and humanity is why I believe Jarhead is one of the best films I have seen in a long, long time.