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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Jarhead [Blu-ray]


(Sam Mendes, 2005)









Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Universal Pictures

Blu-ray: Universal Studios Home Entertainment



Region: All

Runtime: 2:02:50

Chapters: 20

Feature Size: 20.,9 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 25th, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1



English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio. Dub: Spanish & French DTS 5.1



English SDH, French,  Spanish and none



• Commentary by Director Sam Mendes

• Commentary by Screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. and Author Anthony Swofford

• My Scenes: Create your own video montage




Description: A young man gets a crash course in the madness of war in this fact-based drama from director Sam Mendes. Anthony "Swoff" Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) decides to join the Marines, just like his father and his father before him, and signs on just in time to be sent to Iraq to fight in the Gulf War in 1991. After experiencing the rigors of boot camp, Swofford and his pal Troy (Peter Sarsgaard) are trained to be snipers, and under the leadership of Sgt. Sykes (Jamie Foxx) and Lt. Col. Kazinski (Chris Cooper), the two land in the middle of a desert where they're up against an enemy they can't always see under a blazing sun with hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Swofford, Troy, and their fellow soldiers rely on the wits, their sense of humor, and their friendship of their brothers in arms to deal with a situation that doesn't much resemble what they saw on television at home. Jarhead was based on the memoirs of the real-life Anthony Swofford, who did serve as a sniper in the 1991 Gulf War; the title comes from military slang for a Marine enlistee.




Set during the Gulf War, the episodic tale follows Anthony Swofford (a.k.a. "Swoff"), a third- generation enlistee, from his sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, where he's sporting a sniper's rifle and a hundred-pound ruck sack on his back, while moving through Middle East deserts with no cover from the intolerable heat. As well, he advances with no protection from the Iraqi soldiers--and there's always a potential enemy sighting, just over the next horizon. Swoff and his fellow Marines sustain themselves on humor and camaraderie as they tread the blazing desert fields in a country they don't understand, against an enemy they can't see, for a cause they don't fully fathom.


Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this critically acclaimed, brilliantly unconventional war story from Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes. Jarhead (the self-imposed moniker of the Marines) follows Swoff (Gyllenhaal) from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, where he sports a sniper rifle through Middle East deserts that provide no cover from the heat or Iraqi soldiers. Swoff and his fellow Marines sustain themselves with sardonic humanity and wicked comedy on blazing desert fields in a country they don’t understand against an enemy they can’t see for a cause they don’t fully grasp.



Jarhead moved me as possibly the best film about the Gulf War that I have seen to date. The Marine indoctrination certainly evokes Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, although perhaps with a harder and more realistic edge. Roger Deakins cinematography of the Kuwaiti desert, with understated contrasts that overpower the entire film's composition, reflects a immensely surreal and inhuman environment - almost a totally different planet. Like many great films it is the story of one man - his world, values, laws and perceptions turned upside down. But Anthony Swofford isn't simply one man - he is all men who find themselves thrust onto the frontlines of a War - with Gyllenhaal juggling the multiple personal eccentricities that undoubtedly evolve in such circumstances. Jarhead's unspoken pauses and visuals create a chiaroscuro experience in their depth and impact. Without sexist undertones I'll say beyond this being a film that everyone should watch - it is definitely a film that all men should positively see at some point in their lives. 

- Gary W. Tooze



Image:    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were obtained directly from the Blu-ray disc.



Deakins and Mendes intentional 'bleached look' of the desert and stylized, hand-held, camera work is transferred quite well to this Blu-ray. The sparse look is one of barren and desolate vistas reflecting alienation and the boredom of waiting soldiers. It works. The scenes involving the oil fires were created both on location and within Stage 12 at Universal and they look just magnificent. The Blu-ray's deft contrast really accentuates these visuals to the level of 'awesome'. There is both heavy noise and artifacts but one might think an increase (doubling?) from the 20 Gig of feature space could have removed some of this and possibly improved detail. Contrast and depth of contours are the star of this image while color brilliance is virtually non-existent till the end of the film. This transfer seems to faithfully represent the filmmakers intent - often appearing like a faded newsreel.
















Blu-ray offers a DTS-HD Master 5.1. The film has abundant effects, explosions, gunfire exported with impressive depth. Thomas Newman (In the Bedroom, American Beauty, Shawshank Redemption, Erin Brockovich) does the score and it sounds very crisp in the lossless. As does all the additional music in the film from Nirvana and Public Enemy to Kanye West and Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now). Very clean and pleasing in lossless. There are optional subtitles on Universal's region FREE Blu-ray disc.


Two commentaries – one by the director and the other by the writers – offer a lot to understanding the lengths the filmmakers went to - in being as faithful as they could to the book. Universal opted not to include the extra features found on disc two of the DVD: "The Jarhead Diaries", Sempre Fi: Life After the Corps, and Background. Which seems an unnecessary exclusion considering the
Blu-ray disc size available to them.




Bottom line:
For me, the film's impact and the
Blu-ray's apparent faithful rendition of the theatrical give me enough of a reason to be impressed. At times, this 1080P transfer left me mesmerized - more credit to Deakins, Mendes... and the performances (Gyllenhaal, Foxx, Scott MacDonald, Peter Sarsgaard, and briefly, Chris Cooper).  I was far too enamored with the film to be hypercritical although perhaps we will get a new 'Anniversary' release one day.  As for now, it remains the best home presentation of a brilliant movie experience. 

Gary W. Tooze

November 19th, 2008







About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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