(out of 5)
Jake Gyllenhaal enters the army for reasons not unlike Goldie Hawn’s in Private Benjamin, is put through the unimaginable rigors of marine training and is then sent, along with 500,000 troops, to Kuwait at the onset of the Gulf War. He and his fellow soldiers are just itching to get into some fighting, but the most action they ever see is on the movie screen playing Apocalypse Now. Their job is to protect oil fields, which they do without ever seeing a single moment of combat, despite their preparatory humiliation that makes them maniacally prepared to ‘fight for their country’. Everything about the film, from the solid performances to the gorgeously burned cinematography to the intelligently written dialogue is first-rate, but Sam Mendes’ direction willfully keeps it from being great. Statements to derail the war propaganda that has been enchanting young people for decades is constantly threatened but in the end the film flat out refuses to make them (was Universal Studios nervous about being audited?), plus the moment that should have been the uneven screenplay’s climax only reveals itself after it has actually happened. Gyllenhaal carries the movie extremely well, while the best bits come from his interaction with a scintillating Peter Sarsgaard and a very memorable Jamie Foxx.
Directed by Sam Mendes
Cinematography by Roger Deakins
Music by Thomas Newman
Production Design by Dennis Gassner
Costume Design by Albert Wolsky
Film Editing by Walter Murch