Oliver Stone’s Platoon was the Vietnam War movie that won the Oscars, but Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, which came later, is a better film – a coolly detached observation of the effects of war on individuals. Filmed entirely in Britain, the story is told in two parts. Part one, dealing with a bunch of youthful American Marines undergoing basic training in boot camp, centres on their violent, dehumanising gunnery sergeant, Lee Ermey, a man with a genius for obscenity, and the group misfit Vincent D’Onofrio, who cracks under the strain. Then the action moves to Vietnam where attention focuses on Matthew Modine, and the rookies turned licensed killers, going into bloody action, find their most dangerous opponent is a teenage girl sniper. But this is a conflict fought on both sides mostly by kids. What Kubrick has to say about the horror of war is not new but he says it with a brilliance and artistry denied to most film-makers.
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