Time has a way of restoring balance, however. Platoon’s reputation has decreased along with that of its irascible director, and when’s the last time you heard anyone talk about The Last Emperor? If ever? Meanwhile, love for Full Metal Jacket continues to pile up, and the war epic currently stands tall at No. 81 on arguably the closest thing to the cinematic court of popular opinion: the Internet Movie Database’s Top 250 list. (To be fair, Platoon is there, too, but trailing at No. 144 and with 161,627 votes to Jacket’s 237,011.) Now it enjoys a 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Book from Warner Bros.
Among a daunting filmography rife with classics, Kubrick’s penultimate work remains one of my five favorites of his making. I also believe it’s the best war movie ever made. While it ostensibly trudges the same territory at Stone did a year earlier, Kubrick taps into deeper emotions, and without having to rely on Samuel Barber’s soaring Adagio for Strings to do most of the work for him. It earns its audience reactions honestly.
Matthew Modine (currently on screen in The Dark Knight Rises) is the audience’s surrogate as Pvt. “Joker” Davis. Kubrick’s brilliance was essentially cutting his film into two distinct halves — the first depicting Davis and his fellow Marines in training at boot camp, and the second dropping them into the thick of battle.
I know which section I think is better, but it’s tough to tell which section is scarier, thanks to R. Lee Ermey’s ever-intimidating performance as Sgt. Hartman (which he’s more or less parodied ever since, from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake to his own History Channel reality series, Lock N’ Load) and the frightening one by Vincent D’Onofrio (TV’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent) as Hartman’s mentally unhinged target, Pvt. “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence. They all contribute to an unforgettable experience, guided by Kubrick’s master touch.
Besides having the film in high-definition and packaged in a compact hardback book, the real draw of this silver-anniversary release is Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes, a quirky, intriguing documentary in which Tony Frewin, Kubrick’s assistant for three decades, gives director Jon Ronson a tour of and peek inside the approximately 1,000 boxes the reclusive Kubrick left behind when he passed away in 1999.
The full storage pod on Kubrick’s estate is like a museum to his mind, revealing countless photos of location research, screen tests, audition tapes, memos to his staff with bizarre requests about cat collars and barometric pressure, script reader reports, fan letters meticulously coded and filed, legal correspondence arguing Space: 1999’s infringement on 2001: A Space Odyssey, newspaper ads he would measure to the millimeter to make sure publishers were honoring sizes paid for, and miscellany on unrealized film projects, from cannibals to golden worms.
Among these treasures, Ronson even unearths 18 hours of footage shot by Kubrick’s daughter Vivian on the set of Full Metal Jacket, including her father arguing over the crew’s tea breaks, thus justifying Boxes’ inclusion on Warner’s set. It’s an insightful look about an impatient man immensely patient with his work, who never understood the purpose of holidays, who feared running out of stationery, who refused to use a credit card, who was forever terrified of missing something, and who made some of the greatest movies the screen will ever see. —Rod Lott