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Like many here have already said, the first 45 minutes are perfect. One of the best things that cinema has ever presented to us. Really loved R. Lee Ermey character and his acting. The second part is also very good, but just couldn't stop thinking that there was something missing.
Still, in general, it is a great movie. Great Kubrick!
While I would usually talk about Kubrick's "coldness" or "detachment" as a director, this is probably his most HUMAN film. The detachment isn't the director's, it's an element of a story which is essentially about how you create killers. It's a companion piece to A Clockwork Orange - with similar contrasting music and images in addition to its theme of violence - but more immediate and real by virtue of the near-historical setting that is the Vietnam War. The detachment, then, is the necessary ingredient that turns an empathetic human being into a creature that can (and even wants to) commit murder. Kubrick isn't cold here - we feel for his characters - but he is impressively PRECISE. His shots are symmetrical tableaux where random, chaotic things happen as if on cue. One example (warning, 30-year-old spoiler): Matthew Modine's character wear a Peace symbol that keeps creeping out of shot when he is forced to finally kill someone. When it's out of shot/in shadow, he fires. Kubrick, man. Now, most people I've talked to or read tend to think of FMJ as two films (Kubrick usually works from a multi-act structure), and only really love the first - the Marine training starring real-life drill sergeant R. Lee Ermey. And it's true the way Act I concludes makes it a rather perfect mini-movie. But to say the rest of the film doesn't quite satisfy is, I think, missing the point, as is calling it the second of 2 acts. There are really 3 clear acts in FMJ, each advancing the basic theme. In Act I, we see how creating killers can yield unfortunate results. In Act II, Joker goes to Vietnam where he encounters several "institutional" killers, killing for the State, but not necessarily anything other than murderers (that's where the film's ambiguity comes from - what killing is "acceptable"? Is context enough, or does intent matter?). Act III is the entire sequence where Cowboy's squad faces off against a sniper, where again these questions are asked, and where Joker in particular must answer them for himself. For Kubrick used to begin at Dr. Strangelove and end at 2001, but I think I've found a film worthy of those early classics.
The first 45 minutes are just brilliant. I love the way sergeant Hartman insults everyone, it's really funny. The rest of the movie is much less brilliant, but by the end there is some good suspense.
This is a movie that's mostly funny, but at times it's dark, gripping and suspenseful. Definitely a must see.
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