Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket makes its UHD debut, but other than a new scan, there is really nothing new here.
The Production: 4.5/5
The following was taken from Cameron Yee’s review of the 25th Anniversary edition of Full Metal Jacket released on Blu-ray in digibook form in 2012.
A 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.
3D Rating: NA
For its UHD debut, Warner has gone back to the original 35mm camera negative to create a new 4K scan from those elements, under the supervision of Stanley Kubrick’s personal assistant Leon Vitali, and applied HDR10 high dynamic range for wider color gamut and deeper contrast. Full Metal Jacket is not a “pretty” film to look at, but the new 2160p HEVC-encoded transfer (in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio) is a welcome upgrade to the 2007 and 2012 Blu-ray releases that used the VC-1 video codec. Thanks to the high resolution, higher bitrates, and improved film scanning techniques, this is a much more detailed transfer, revealing more defined textures in the uniforms, decay in buildings caused by war, etc. Colors don’t exactly “pop,” but the drab military colors do stand out more dramatically, such as the olive green uniforms against the often grey skies and barracks buildings. Contrast is exceptional, particularly during darker night time sequences, offering deep shadow details where necessary.
Full Metal Jacket on UHD uses the same 5.1 mix as the previous Blu-ray release, this time using DTS-HD Master Audio rather than LPCM (or as the Blu-ray menu identifies it, English Dolby PCM!). The DTS-HD MA track shares the same strengths and weaknesses of the Blu-ray’s PCM track that Cameron Yee noted in his 2012 review:
Dialogue 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.
As an added bonus, Warner has included on this UHD disc release the original theatrical mono mix in Dolby Digital 1.0 encoded at 192 kbps.
Special Features: 3/5
Nothing new here (Warner has once again repurposed the 2007 Blu-ray disc), and missing is the Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes documentary DVD that was included as a separate disc on the 2012 Blu-ray digibook release. The good news is that the audio commentary track has been included on the UHD disc, while that track and the other special features can be found on the Blu-ray edition.
Audio Commentary with Actors Alec Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Ermey and Screenwriter/Critic Jay Cocks
Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil (480i; 30:49)
Theatrical Trailer (480i; 1:28)
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy (in UHD where available) on Movies Anywhere.
Warner gives Full Metal Jacket a new 4K transfer that looks spectacular, but nothing else is new in this package, recycling the now 13-year old Blu-ray and shedding the 1-hour Kubrick documentary Boxes.