Jarhead, Blu-ray (2008)

by | Dec 5, 2008 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Jarhead, Blu-ray (2008)
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Cooper, Jamie Foxx
Studio: Universal Studios Home Video 61106330

Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 color, 1080p HD

Audio: English DTS Master Audio 5.1; Spanish, French DTS 5.1; English Dolby 2.0

Extras: Audio Commentaries
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

Length: 123 minutes

Rating: **1/2
Jarhead is director Sam Mendes’ somewhat lackluster attempt to recreate Anthony Swofford’s best selling book that documented his experiences in Saudi Arabia in preparation for the first Gulf War. Rather than covering the intense action and often graphic horrors of war, the book and movie delved more heavily into the frequent boredom and tedium and often bizarre, bordering on the surreal posturing that the soldiers in training underwent in brutal desert conditions. In this, the movie somewhat succeeds, as it conveys the ridiculousness of war from the eyes of the soldiers, who eventually ship out from Saudi Arabia without having fired a shot. Upon his return to the U.S., Swofford, or “Swoff” as he’s known in the book and film, was treated as a hero; based on his experiences in the war, this greatly troubled him – he felt he was anything but a hero. He sought to set the record straight through the compelling accounts of boredom and bizarre behavior that made his book such a success; unfortunately, that just didn’t translate into similar success on the big screen or at the box office.

Visually, the movie follows the often graphically stylized pattern employed in recent war films, with a relatively bleak color palette and intensely bleached-out appearance, with the images often bordering on sepia tone. While the film is highly detailed with an exceptionally sharp image, it still appears to have been heavily processed – this isn’t a disc to show off the color capabilities of your HD television. The DTS Master Audio 5.1 presentation, while pretty good, contains virtually no action in the surrounds; of course, there are no bombs or explosions to speak of, so in a dialogue heavy film like this one, there’s really very little to complain about. Despite its shortcomings, the overall presentation of the Blu-ray disc was a significant improvement over the DVD version.

One area that was definitely not an improvement over the DVD was the Blu-ray’s meager offering of bonus materials; the DVD version contained a plethora of extras, and this disc only contains the audio commentaries from Sam Mendes and Anthony Swofford. The disc is a BD-25 unit; it just amazes me that Universal didn’t utilize the extra storage of a 50-gig disc (or add a second disc) to include at least the same level of extras as the DVD, and perhaps include some interactive or HD exclusive material as well. Those looking to delve more deeply into the film will be greatly disappointed by this oversight.

While, as a movie, Jarhead tells a pretty good story, the overall Blu-ray experience falls significantly short of the mark set by similar releases from Universal. The movie is far from a total loss, however, and throughout you see glimpses of the excellent absurdist filmmaking that Sam Mendes gave us in his classic (and Oscar winning) film American Beauty. Jake Gyllenhaal is superb as Swoff, and Peter Sarsgaard – who’s one of the best of the current crop of young actors out there – is excellent as Swoff’s nearly insane buddy Troy. And Jamie Foxx gives an extremely over-the-top performance as their overbearing drill sergeant. Still, just when the movie appears ready to take you to the next level, it consistently falls flat. You just might consider making this one a rental.  

– Tom Gibbs


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