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Film: Jarhead
Welcome to the Suck...

"A story: A man fires a rifle for many years, and he goes to war. And afterward he turns the rifle in at the armory, and he believes he's finished with the rifle. But no matter what else he might do with his hands, love a woman, build a house, change his son's diaper; his hands remember the rifle."

Jarhead is the title of the 2003 autobiography of Marine scout sniper Anthony Swofford, adapted into a 2005 film which starred Jake Gyllenhall (as Swofford), as well as Jamie Foxx and Peter Sarsgaard.

Set before, during, and after the Gulf War, Swofford's account of his time in the military stands in contrast to more traditional works: being largely an air campaign, Swofford's unit (like many other ground troops) saw little engagement with enemy forces; averting boredom and mental fatigue are more of the day-to-day activities than actual firefights.

Along with documenting the minutiae of military life during basic training and the campaign, Swofford gives background on the types of people that are his fellow Marines.

This work contains examples of:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Swofford finds out first-hand how much this can suck.
  • Berserk Button: Don't call Fowler "squishy-face." And don't try and steal Troy's kill shot.
  • Call Forward: Towards the end, when the Marines are rejoicing at getting to go home, one of them screams "We never have to come back to this shit-hole again!" In the epilogue, we learn that Sykes wound up serving in the second Iraq War.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Swofford suffers one after a call to his girlfriend gets disconnected earlier that day and makes him obsess over what she might be doing while he is gone.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: Almost occurs when the Marines call in A-10 ground attack aircraft to provide support during a battle, only for the A-10's to mistake them for the enemy and nearly kill them all with the bombing run.
  • Cluster F-Bomb
  • Cold Sniper: Averted by the personality types of the platoon, but played straight in the mentality the scout snipers are taught to embody when working in the field. The marines actively desire "getting a kill."
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: A frequently recommended strategy to relieve boredom.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Invoked in-universe while the marines watch Apocalypse Now.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Drill Instructor Fitch reacts to a smart-ass response by smashing Swofford's head into a chalkboard. In the novel, Fitch was cruel even by Marine standardsnote  - he was eventually busted by a passing Officer seeing him go too far. Swofford regrets participating in helping Fitch get busted, as he felt, however vicious and sadistic he was, it was unfair.
  • Facial Dialogue: When Kruger, a notable dissenter in almost every conversation, is told he cannot comment against the war on camera, his responses to a reporter are given by this.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot
  • Gay Bravado: Jarhead has an entire mock-orgy, just out of view of a TV camera.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Can be considered a Deconstruction of war movies, showing how the traditional war movie scenario would play out in the modern age. In the age of computerized warfare, eager young men join the military wanting to serve their country and prove themselves, but often never actually make it to the frontlines and, in the end, are left with crippling feelings of inadequacy when they end up spending more time battling alienation and loneliness than battling the enemy. By the end of the movie, Swofford has shot his weapon in the air when it turns out the invasion's complete.
    Troy: You can shoot how far? A hundred yards? To go that far in Vietnam, it'd take a week. In World War I, a year. Here? It'll take about ten fucking seconds! By the time we have our rifles dialed, the war's gonna be a mile down the road! Wake up!
  • Her Boyfriend's Jacket: The girlfriend of one of the marines keeps sending him sexy photos of her wearing his uniform jackets (and nothing else). One of the other marines eventually asks if she has any clothing of her own.
  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: Noted as a legitimate military tactic to quickly gauge distances: use things you know, such as the length of a football field.
    SSgt. Sykes: You take what you know, and then you multiply. Please don't use your dicks. They're too small, and I can't count that high. I don't wanna hear, "400,000 inches."
  • Insistent Terminology/Military Lingo:
    Swofford (Narrating):"A bed was a rack. A wall was a bulkhead. A shirt was a blouse. A tie was still a tie, and a belt a belt. But many other things would never be the same."
  • Military Moonshiner: One, Corporal Harrigan, supplies the illegal booze for the party in Iraq.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Gyllenhall, who even appears during a Christmas party wearing only two Santa hats. Guess where they're placed.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Discussed at length in this Cracked article, which cites Jarhead as a major offender. The trailer tries to make a slow-paced character drama about the boredom and alienation of military life look like a slam-bang war thriller by stringing together footage of the few scenes where there's actually any fighting shown. They even include the scene where Fergus lights the flares on fire, which (taken out of context) makes it look like the marines are under attack. This may be intentional...
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: Fowler commits this. It's defiling a corpse, but that's still a major no-no by the books. There's an allusion to the same marine having shot a camel just because he could.
  • Pac Man Fever: There are a few lines of dialogue referring to levels in Metroid, and that if you reach the tenth level, nothing happens, you just start at the beginning again. Erm, no. Unlike games broken into levels, Metroid Vania games are the poster child for Sequence Breaking. Not to mention that even the first Metroid game for the NES had a legitimate, if short, ending.
  • Pink Mist: Invoked by name, in an almost erotic way...
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: SSgt Sykes. See A Real Man Is a Killer for the quote.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Or rather, a Real Marine Is a Killer...
    SSgt. Sykes: The Bible says, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Now hear this... FUCK. THAT. SHIT.
  • Sanity Slippage: When Swofford calmly defines his choice of firing position that could result in a friendly fire situation (from several inches away, no less), you know things are not going well. To say nothing of pointing his loaded rifle at his squadmate Fergus and threatening to kill him as both revenge for an earlier accident that got him demoted and to relieve his boredom.
    Swofford (Narrating): "For most problems the Marine is issued a solution. If ill, go to sickbay. If wounded, call a Corpsman. If dead, report to graves registration. If losing his mind, however, no standard solution exists."
  • Screw the War, We're Partying: Well, it was Christmas...
  • Sergeant Rock: Staff Sergeant Sykes knows his job and knows it well. And he loves it. Oorah.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: While riding a bus during a welcome-home parade, the Marines find themselves face-to-face with a ragged Vietnam War veteran who jumps onto the bus to congratulate them for winning the war, and making it "clean". The Veteran visibly breaks down and sits down, asking if he can ride with them for a while. The squad is visibly uncomfortable when faced with what they could possibly become.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: A lot of the Marines have Hidden Depths; Troy quotes Hemingway, Swofford is obviously well-read and the platoon's Military Moonshiner, Harrigan, studied Classics at Dartmouth.
    • Justified in Swofford's case, since the movie is based on the real Anthony Swofford's memoir. After serving in the Marines, Swofford went on to get an English degree and become a successful writer.
  • Southern-Fried Private: Kruger, played brilliantly by Lucas Black. Subverts it somewhat by being the group skeptic and rather tuned-in to the harsh realities of his situation.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Staff Sergeant Sykes often has his name misspelled by other media, the most common of which being 'Sieks'.
  • Tempting Fate: "Them paintball bullets, they hurt?"
  • Understatement: "It was shortly after meeting Drill Instructor Fitch that I realized that joining the Marine Corps might have been a bad decision."
  • The Unfought: Swofford is a sniper who never gets an order to fire a single shot. At the movie's climax he is finally ordered to target an enemy officer, and has him in his sights... when Command decides to just bomb the place instead.
  • Vanilla Edition: The blu-ray version of the film, while featuring a high-definition transfer, has none of the DVD release's special menus, extended/deleted scenes or behind-the-scenes featurettes.
  • War Is Hell: It is... just not for the usual reasons. In the Gulf War, soldiers often spent more time battling alienation and loneliness than the enemy. Due to the brevity of the war, they often had to deal with pent-up energy when they never actually saw a battle.

It Happened HereMilitary and Warfare FilmsJoyeux NoŽl
The JacketFilms of 2005 - 2009 Joyeux NoŽl

alternative title(s): Jarhead
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