Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Blu-ray DigiBook
Running Time: 1:56:30
|THE FEATURE||SPECIAL FEATURES|
|Video||VC-1: 1080p high definition 1.78:1||Standard definition|
|Audio||Linear PCM: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1, German 5.1, Italian 5.1, Castellano 5.1, Spanish 5.1||Stereo|
|Subtitles||English, English SDH, French, German, German SDH, Italian, Italian SDH, Castellano, Dutch, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish||English|
The Feature: 4.5/5A batch of new Marine recruits has arrived on Parris Island circa 1967, an inductive head shaving being just the first of many humiliations meant to break and ultimately rebuild them into modern combat soldiers. Their drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermy) proclaims to be tough but fair, but he dances on the edge of being an abusive tyrant. Most of the privates rise to Hartman’s mental and physical challenges, namely J.T. “Joker” Davis (Matthew Modine), who is given increasing responsibilities despite his tendency for cracking wise. At the other extreme is Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio), whose successive failures make him the target of Hartman’s most heated attacks and ultimately a pariah among his fellow recruits. Though Pyle gets the stick he needs to begin conforming to the Marine Corps mold, it comes at an incredible price. Though Joker stays on course, eventually becoming a Vietnam War correspondent for Stars and Stripes, his tour of duty in the heart of the conflict will also cost him dearly.
Director Stanley Kubrick’s detached, observational style can be vexing for those who want more feeling to their storytelling, but with a subject as fraught with emotion as the Vietnam War, an objective approach proves to be just as engrossing, if not more thought provoking. The somewhat obtuse narrative structure has almost half of the film focused on the struggles of Private Pyle, making a rather pointed message about what it takes to become a good soldier. The rest of the piece essentially repeats the message with the more likable Joker, in a sort of response to those who might view the hapless recruit as more the exception than the rule. Though Pyle’s eventual fate counts as the film’s most disturbing scene, upon reflection, Joker’s more gradual transformation is just as powerful. As the viewer has identified with Joker the most, his change – and his casual attitude towards it – creates an uncertainty about our own inherent decency and humanity. Other war films have stated this message in more obvious ways, but few have the haunting persistence of Kubrick’s measured approach to the subject.
Video Quality: 4/5Presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer approximates the 1.85:1 aspect ratio by filling the entire 16:9 frame. It features strong blacks, uncompromised contrast, and pleasing depth of color despite a sometimes muted color palette. Detail is decent, tending to fare better in close ups than wide shots, which is somewhat unfortunate given Kubrick’s favoring of establishing shots and panoramics; however, the picture appears free of artifacts from digital noise reduction and sharpening measures.
Note: The transfer appears identical to the one found on the 2007 Blu-ray release, which is curious considering a sticker on the packaging proclaiming it’s an “all-new remastered feature on Blu-ray for the first time.” As Robert Harris points out in his column, the fact one can load the 2007 release, eject it, then load the 25th anniversary edition, and have it pick up where things left off points to the disc being a simple repressing rather than an “all new remaster.” Though the press release doesn’t parrot this “all new” claim, it’s a rather blatant piece of false advertising that should simply not have happened.
Audio Quality: 4/5Dialogue in the 5.1 Linear PCM audio track is consistently crisp and detailed, though there’s an occasional harsh edge to vocals. Surround activity is measured but balanced, providing light support for the battle sequences and music cues. LFE is non-existent given the film’s vintage, but the track has great depth in most scenes, the action scenes suffering most from the lack of robust lower frequencies.
Special Features: 3/5The bonus material includes the same items found on the 2007 Blu-ray release and the additions of the collectible booklet and the “Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes” documentary on a separate (DVD) disc. The latter provide some depth lacking in the previous release, though the documentary only partially deals with the “Full Metal Jacket” project.
Commentary by Actors Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Ermey, and Screenwriter/Author Jay Cocks: Edited together from separate recorded interviews, the actors discuss their months-long production experience working together and with the legendary director. Of most interest is D’Onofrio’s recollection about his first screen role and its affect on his career. Cocks’s contribution focuses on the story’s themes and narrative structure.
Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil (30:49, SD): The 2007 documentary looks at the film’s casting, production, and legacy through interviews with filmmaking professionals and various cast members including Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Baldwin, and Matthew Modine.
Theatrical Trailer (1:28, SD)
Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes (1:01:03, SD): Not previously available on DVD, the documentary that originally aired on British television delves into the legendary director’s films and working style through the sizable collection of storage boxes located in and around his estate. Told in first person by the director Jon Ronson, who was hired by the Kubrick family to create the piece, it’s a fascinating and decidedly personal look into the notoriously private auteur.
Collectible Book: The printed material attached to the packaging includes cast and crew biographies, an essay about the film, and vintage production photographs and film posters.
RecapThe Film: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3/5
Despite a bit of false advertising about the recency of the transfer, Warner Home Video’s (repeat) presentation of Stanley Kubrick’s thought-provoking Vietnam War film remains a solid one. The bonus material is expanded only slightly compared to the previous 2007 Blu-ray, making this latest edition really an item for ardent collectors. As the older release can be had at a third of the price, anyone else should opt for it instead. And those who already have it should have no qualms foregoing this third Blu-ray release of the title.