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UnknownJarhead isn’t a typical war movie. If you’re expecting the sonic boom of Black Hawk Down and Platoon or the anti-war sentiment of All Quiet on the Western Front you’re in for a surprise. Rather than making a statement either for or against war, director Sam Mendes has crafted a bloodless, but emotionally charged character study about men who fight. Jarhead has elements of the great Hollywood war pictures—the drill sergeant seems cribbed from Full Metal Jacket, the arid desert setting from Three Kings, the cynicism from Catch 22—but instead of going for bombast, Mendes takes us inside the heads of the soldiers. Jake Gyllenhaal hands in another impressive performance in the lead role, while Jamie Foxx adds layers to the clichéd role of the hard-as-nails Marine, turning it into compelling viewing.

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