In Jarhead, the soldier’s life runs its full, but unconsummated, gamut during the Gulf War. We watch as they train for one job—Marine sniper—only to see them disillusioned and jonesing, without assignment, without targets to kill. The desert scenes, then, are not filled with climactic spectacle (that doesn’t mean there aren’t explosions) but instead with an anti-climactic inactivity. The whole film is itching, really, to see those soldiers make a kill. The film is smart, though, and denies such fulfillment. In this respect, Jarhead opens the mason jar on the soldier ideology: more than anti-war (and it’s certainly not pro-war by any means), it is a movie that copes with the decision that so many people make every day—going off to war—and, thus, is about the pathology of soldierism.
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.