Full Metal Jacket – the film, the novel, the man (and the birthday)


Jerry Gustav Hasford was born on this day, 70 years ago. He was known as Gustav Hasford and he was an American novelist, journalist and poet. But the most important thing of all (well, for the world, at least) – he was a combat correspondent during the Vietnam War. Now, why is that important? Because it made him write the semi-autobiographical novel The Short-Timers in 1979, which was the basis of 1987 Stanley Kubrick’s film Full Metal Jacket.

Unfortunately, Gustav wasn’t an outstanding businessman. Here is what he had to say about the “movie money” in an LA Times interview: “Well, theoretically, yeah. With a capital T. I have points in the film, yeah. But that’s movie money. It’s like fairy gold, the leprechauns’ gold. I don’t think I ought to make too much money. I’d just sit around all the time reading my Civil War books.” Hasford died impoverished on 29 January 1993, aged 45.

But what about the film? Was it any good? It WAS directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick, after all. Full Metal Jacket is a British-American war film, strictly divided into two parts.

The first part is primarily focused on two US Army privates, Joker (Matthew Modine) and Pyle, (Vincent D’Onofrio) who struggle to get through the training camp led by their drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey). The second part is set in the midst of the Vietnam War, during the famous Tet Offensive.

The film received high critical acclaim at the time, but some critics later argued that there is a very distinct drop in quality in the second part of the film.

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Be it as it may, Full Metal Jacket is still rightly considered one of the best war films ever made.

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