SOME SAY WAR IS HELL. Others say Hell is other people.
Stanley Kubrick says a little from Column A, a little from B. 1987's Full Metal Jacket portrays the chaotic nightmare of combat, but it's perhaps better remembered for how it shows the degrading purgatory of boot camp. In Kubrick's version of Vietnam, the threat from within comes in equal measure to the one from without. No one can forget Vincent D'Onofrio's devil-eyed insanity as Private Pyle, the fat kid who takes abuse from his staff sergeant and fellow soldiers alike. It would be one thing if anyone believed the higher-ups had a clue what went down in the trenches, but as any wartime narrative shows, being in the military is just like being in high school: plotless, endless, and dictated by a rough social order. Only this time, they want you to have guns.
Given that our country is currently in three wars, there's no better time for the Laurelhurst to resurrect Kubrick's demented masterpiece for a week, and if Full Metal Jacket isn't enough of a horror show for you, here are a few more selections to go along with it.
Casualties of War (1989)—A critical scene in Full Metal Jacket hinges on peer pressure regarding a lady Vietcong; for Brian De Palma, that scene is the whole film. Michael J. Fox is surprisingly credible as a PFC standing between Sean Penn and unforgivable crimes.
The Strange One (1957)—Imagine A Few Good Men if it never left the barracks. Ben Gazzara's sleazeball turn as a sadistic cadet would make Jack Nicholson quake in his dress blues.
Paths of Glory (1957)—Back to Kubrick, and this time with his definitive anti-war combat film. This WWI drama details a doomed battle where the men refused to fight and the resultant kangaroo court. The backroom decisions and the legal system prove as difficult to navigate as the shell-shocked No Man's Land the director photographs with a kinetic grace, setting a standard only he has equaled since.