Movies are a way for audiences to understand major events. How did Full Metal Jacket, Platoon and Hamburger Hill bring the realities of war to the cinema audience?Opening scene of Full Metal Jacket(Item 11)Propaganda poster Full Metal Jacket(item 20)The first film which was based on the events of the Vietnam War was the 1968, John Wayne film“The Green Berets” although this did not show the real horror of the Vietnam War. A gloriouspropaganda film made to try and change people’s opinions of the war.“Platoon” [item 2]came out in 1986, eleven years after the war had finished.Platoon was the first film to show what Vietnam was really like for the soldiers. America was stillmourning the 58,000 fatalities of the war as such a realist portrayal of the Vietnam War was risky.In 1987 Stanley Kubrick released the film “Full Metal Jacket”[item 1]. By 1987 Kubrick was anacclaimed director. He had already made some of his most successful films, one of which being aworld war one film about the French troops called “Paths of Glory”.“Hamburger Hill” [item 3]was released after than Full Metal Jacket.Made by RKO pictures that wereon the brink of collapse.The film features the soldiers who fought in the battle for hill 937 which was consequently namedHamburger Hill because of such huge loss of life for the Americans. Hamburger Hill clearly depictsthe relationships of the soldiers and how the stress of fighting changed them.One of the main themes within “Full Metal Jacket” is the idea of changing an ordinary young maninto a killing machine.Full metal jacket front cover(item 21)This picture shows “Pvt. Joker” who is the main character in the film. As you can see he has writtenon his helmet the words “Born To Kill” to show that he is a “real” marine that is very capable ofkilling, however he also has a peace symbol button on his helmet which is an oxymoron because youcan’t support peace but yet be “born to kill”.This is just one of many ways in which Kubrick shows the change of youth to killers.Mickey Mouse(item 12)This is a very powerful scene and can be interpreted in three different ways. The first is that theseyoung men have been transformed into these killers so are not men but even more mature, they’rekillers and they are singing to keep a hold of their childhood memories “My thoughts drift back…”This is a very artistic way of interpreting the scene but it is Stanley’s genius to make an ending to afilm that seems simple have so many different layers and interpretations.
The second is the marine of the phrase “Mickey Mouse” which in the marines slang means“Bulls**t”. This could be the marines talking about the entire Vietnam War because they don’t wantto fight or just about the battle because they had lost three men on one assault. The last interpretation of this is that they are singing it in a sarcastic way because the little girl whowas about twelve was the one who had killed the three marines and was killed for her actions eventhough she was only young and had been taught to kill. This scene makes it very real for theaudience because they can empathise with the characters because you have witnessed the stepsthey have taken from being young 18 year old teens and transformed into killers.War face(item 13)This scene is among one of my favourites from the film. This shows how “the gunny” is terrorisingPvt. Joker into becoming a killer.The audience feel the raw emotion of the scene. The reason the warcries’ are so convincingis probably because Kubrick had a talent for making actors break downcompletely until he saw the emotion he wanted, he would famously reshoot scenes multiple timesjust to make sure that the raw emotion was heightened.Extract from Full Metal Jacket documentary(item 14)Platoon dance mother f****r dance!(item 15)Platoon was the first “real” film about the war in Vietnam as it was described in its trailer.This seems quite strange because Vietnam was the first war that had been televised.Platoon Elias death picture (item 22)Platoon comparison to war picture (item 23)Shocking and provoking images had been shown around the world of the destruction of Vietnamesetowns, cities, villages and even people.It is currently the most controversial war in history because there were so many anti-wardemonstrations. Because it was such a horrific war and this was known publicly then why did it takeeleven years to make a film that showed the real “Vietnam”?Elias death(item 16)This is the most famous scene from the film and the most famous picture. The way it has been shot and edited make it a horrible yet beautiful thing to watch because youreally feel the emotion that comes from the acting and from the characters will to survive after beingshot.This scene is a very gritty and brutal reality of what happened most days in combat.It shows the sadreality of war very bluntly to the audience.
Platoon focuses on the growth of Charlie Sheen’s Character, Chris Taylor. This is similar to the themeof Full Metal Jacket but is only focussed on one character where Full Metal Jacket focuses on theentire issue and looks at a whole platoon.Physically you can easily see the difference between the fresh clean unknowing Taylor getting off theplane at the start and compare him to the injured blood stained burnt warrior who has rippedclothes and a bandana on, shows how he has completely changed.Chris Taylor at the beginning of Platoon(item 25)Chris Taylor at the end of Platoon(item 26)Another way you can tell he changes is from the narration; it is his letters home that are being readout that sum up his feelings and thoughts about what was happening around him and give a clearinsight into his progression from youth to man.Racist brawl(item 17)Hamburger Hill is an account of the soldiers who fought for hill 937. The Americans suffered 72deaths and 372 wounded in just 10 days, the 101st airborne division had committed around 1800men to fight on the hill.Hamburger Hill tells the story of the men who fought on the hill for the entire length of the battle.It doesn’t really refer to the change of character like platoon or Full Metal Jacket but does focus onproblems that the war caused other than death or injury.It features shocking brawls within the division that are based on ethnicity.[item 6]Ethnicity was a problem during the war because there was still an apartheid system in America.America was sending large quantities of black soldiers to Vietnam although they didn’t give blackpeople fair rights.[item 8]This caused racial tension because there was a lot of black soldiers’ who didn’t want to be there buthad to be because of their race, and white soldiers were the only soldiers allowed to be in command.The reality of America’s troubled racial history is a key dynamic of the film.[item 6]So why did it take eleven years to make three very successful and somewhat controversial filmsabout the Vietnam War?It can be seen as a time of mourning for the soldiers who had died or been horrifically injured withinthe war.It can be seen as an acknowledgment of American actions in Vietnam. Films can express the truthbut also dramatize it. Full Metal Jacket can be seen to be focussed solely on the shock factorespecially within the opening half of the film which depicts boot camp. The boot camp part of thefilm is most commonly seen as the most shocking part of the film because there hadn’t beenanything that portrayed the boot camp time within war as such a brutal and horrible place.
Before the soldiers had even got to Vietnam you have seen how horrific a time they had had as asoldier and how they’d been treated so awfully; this is mainly achieved by using a real Vietnam Warera “gunny”. He improvised most of his lines depicting amazingly and realistically how they weretreated.This isn’t an ideal that has changed, within the last twenty years films have always been made aboutparticularly shocking events such as the Gulf War, Iraq War and 9/11. The film about 9/11 is called“World Trade Center” which was released just five years after 9/11 happened. This is six yearsquicker than the time between the Vietnam War and Platoon. To say we are more used to shockingevents would be incorrect, 9/11 is still seen as one the worst tragedies that has happened withinhistory, it can also be said that War and Terrorist attacks are a very different thing but both eventschanged the world and shocked it as well. However we may now be more willing to witness theevents within film because we are most used to horrific stories and events happening. This doesn’tmean that we have become more inhumane because films such as these although are shocking arenot meant to be insensitive in fact they are the opposite they are made to remember and respectthose who died.I don’t think the films are purposely built to shock. The realism of them is what shocks. They arebased on true stories and real events. They tell the stories of some of man’s darkest hours.The Vietnam War was publically known as a horrific and inhumane event; seen from televised andpublished news reels and pictures. The American public knew how bad the War was but these threefilms really shock because there is a growing bond between characters and the audience.The artistic way all three films capture the essence of war adds to the shock factor. Especially FullMetal Jacket which is cinematographically beautiful. This contrasts with the dark brutal horror of thefilm.These three films are not the only films about the war, and are most certainly not the onlycontroversial films about a real event. They are perfect examples of how films can further publicperception of war and help them come to terms with a major event; showing the event from thepeople who were affected.