This is My Rifle
Pvt. J.T. 'Joker' Davis (Matthew Modine) finds himself going through Marine training with the likes of Pvt. Cowboy (Arliss Howard) and Pvt. Leonard 'Gomer Pyle' Lawrence (Vincent D'Onofrio) all of whom have to deal with the relentless barking of orders from Gny. Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey). It isn't easy and whilst Joker manages to make it through training with his sense of humour almost intact others are unable to cope with the physical and mental assault of the training. But having completed training Joker heads to Vietnam to be a reporter and as such sees the best and worst of things out there but also finds himself in a fight with a small group of men as they are pinned down by a sniper.
Of course there is probably an answer and maybe a few theories but I do wonder why R. Lee Ermey didn't even receive an Oscar nomination for his performance as Gny. Sgt. Hartman? It is Ermey who is usually the first thing on people's list when asked about Kubrick's Vietnam movie "Full Metal Jacket" and it deserves to be as he never misses a beat as Hartman, barking out expletive riddled commands with such force that you imagine anyone who wasn't prepared for the in the face barrage of insults would be knocked to the ground. Of course that may be the answer to my question because I don't think Ermey as Hartman has one single line which doesn't feature a swear word or a homophobic, racist insult and despite the impressive nature of the performance I bet there were those who felt it was too much to award.
The thing is that whilst R. Lee Ermey makes "Full Metal Jacket" his performance is not the only great one is the movie. There is Vincent D'Onofrio who delivers a deeply unsettling performance as Pvt. Leonard 'Gomer Pyle' Lawrence with his eyes rolling back in his head he makes Lawrence this dim witted guy who ends up becoming unhinged by the training and an unhinged man who knows how to use a weapon is even scarier as he becomes this ticking time bomb. Just as impressive is Adam Baldwin as Animal Mother as there is a touch of the psychosis which D'Onofrio gave Lawrence but with that even scarier aspect that if this killing machine makes it through Vietnam how is he ever going to survive back in a normal world.
And then there is Matthew Modine as Pvt. J.T. 'Joker' Davis the glue who holds the movie together and to be honest Modine perfectly plays his part by underplaying it. And that is because "Full Metal Jacket" is simply not so much about what Joker did during the war but by what he experienced. As such we experience the harsh training, the day to day life and also the action from Joker's point of view. And it leads nicely up to a point where having been part of the war almost solely as an observer Joker finds himself having to become part of the war when it comes to dealing with his own conscience and humanity.
There is of course more to "Full Metal Jacket" than just the acting the cinematography throughout is stunning and during the second half the action is spectacular without being fantasy like. But this is a movie which lives and dies on the characters and as such it is the acting which is the star of the movie and not just from those which I have picked out.
What this all boils down to is that "Full Metal Jacket" is a spectacular movie and showcases Stanley Kubrick as a film maker at his best. But it is also a movie which is all about the characters and when it is over you will never forget the acting be it the shouting of R. Lee Ermey or the disturbing eyes of Vincent D'Onofrio as they roll back in his head.