Full Metal Jacket doesn’t come across as a traditional war film any more than The Shining comes across as a traditional horror film. Both, in what I’m starting to see is a trend from Kubrick, are just meticulously executed stories about people and how weird we are.From the protagonist alone, we get the irony of this war. The natives don’t want the American Marines there. The Marines don’t want to be there themselves. The American public won’t support a pointless war 8,500 miles away. But Joker keeps smiling, because there’s nothing better to do.
He’s wearing a peace symbol as a badge, and he has BORN TO KILL written on his helmet. Like he’s just humouring the folks barking the orders. I don’t know if Full Metal Jacket is supposed to be a funny film, but it is funny.
The thing about Kubrick is I’ve only ever truly enjoyed The Shining. When he tries to put too much weight behind a subject, as he has here in Full Metal Jacket, things just stop being entertaining. His meticulous nature doesn’t lend itself well to stories or messages, just to creating feelings.
I guess if I’m not watching it for the feeling, why watch it at all? In The Shining, his precision felt creepy. Here, it feels dehumanising – and it just adds to the irony. Kubrick is trying to turn his actors into thoughtless drones just as much as the Marines in his effort to condemn dehumanisation.