[Fresh on 4K] ‘FULL METAL JACKET’ arms itself with a remarkable picture and explosive sound

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

FULL METAL JACKET

Rated R, 116 minutes.
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Matthew ModineR. Lee ErmeyVincent D’Onofrio, Adam Baldwin, Dorian Harewood, Kevyn Major Howard and Arliss Howard

Like many of the films from the auteur director Stanley Kubrick, FULL METAL JACKET breaks the tropes of traditional film genres while simultaneously setting trends that would live on in war films to this day. Now, viewers can experience both the horrors of Vietnam and Military Boot Camp in glorious 4K UHD resolution. 

Movie Grade: A

Presenting its main theme as man’s duality, the film is split into two halves that could not be more at odds with each other. The first half is dominated by Gny. Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey), giving a non-stop emotional assault on his latest platoon of Marine recruits in the Vietnam War. While humorous at first, Hartman singles out the platoon’s weakest cadet, Pvt. Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio), to the point of emotional torture to break down his humanity and create an emotionally deprived killing machine. He succeeds.

The second half follows Pvt. Joker (Matthew Modine), a survivor of Hartman’s boot camp who now battles to keep his individuality while still being a cog in the military machine. He constantly challenges the idea of American masculinity by performing a comical John Wayne impersonation and questions his own desire to kill his enemies as well as bring peace to the world. Culturally, FULL METAL JACKET is mostly remembered for its brutally iconic opening half, but the real meat of the film’s message is found in the second half.

FULL METAL JACKET is a brutal film that creatively examines the gruesome nature of war and the emotionally destructive nature of toxic masculinity. It holds a mirror up to reality and dares the viewer to be better. 

Video/Audio Grade: A-

Although presented in a native 4K resolution, it is important to remember that FULL METAL JACKET is not necessarily meant to be a traditionally good looking film. Much of the first half is intentionally bland with desaturated colors on costumes and sets featuring very little detail to enhance in the first place. Additionally, while the second half in Vietnam is bursting with detail, the images on screen are anything but pretty. Analysis aside, this is the best FULL METAL JACKET has ever looked. Skin textures are rich and vibrant across the board, and environmental details for exterior shots truly are a sight to behold.

Like many older films to be re-released on the format, the addition of HDR10 is the real star of the show. Many scenes in the latter half feature numerous fires blazing off in the distance. These isolated pockets of orange in the background wonderfully contrast the darker muddy rubble in the foreground, all with abundant clarity. Shadows never feel compressed even as multiple layers of darkness fill the screen. Overall the people at Warner Bros. have done an impeccable job making such an ugly film look so good.

On the audio front, the disc features a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that is basically on par with the 5.1 LPCM mix from the 2007 Blu-ray. Interestingly enough, an optional Mono track is included on the 4K disc for viewers interested in a more retro viewing experience. The 5.1 track is serviceable but hardly goes out of its way to take advantage of the rear left and right channels. Some nice effects are used for the front left and right channels for scenes featuring tanks or helicopters passing by the main characters. The dialogue is crisp and clear from start to finish, but don’t expect anything mindblowing from the audio. 

Extras Grade: C

Aside from an audio commentary track, no special features are included on the 4K disc. The features found on the included Blu-ray disc are the same from the 2007 release.

Special features listed below:

  • Audio Commentary with Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, and critic/screenwriter Jay Cocks
  • Full Metal Jacket – Between Good and Evil (30:49)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:28)

Final Grade: B+

FULL METAL JACKET is an ugly film that is unlikely to look any better than it does on 4K UHD. Fans of the war film genre, be warned: This one is sure to subvert many expectations in the best way possible. 

FULL METAL JACKET is now available to own 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD.

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