Review Detail

8.9 6 10
FanMix May 30, 2014 4036
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I had the fortune to be able to watch this shortly after it came out, when I was probably way too young for it. Having never seen a war movie like it, I thought it was literally the best one ever. Now that I've watched many more, I see that there are a lot of other films with a clearer point of view, that execute their ideas more effectively. Platoon, Apocalypse Now, and Casualties of War are just a few specifically about the experience IN Vietnam that all do it better. Everyone agrees that where this film really stands out is in the first 45 minutes: boot camp. (More review about the film in general here:

JetSetWilly attempts to distract from the massive drop-off in quality through 2 major changes. Firstly, editing the boot camp scenes into the rest of the film as flashbacks. Secondly, cutting some of the boot camp scenes. While it's arguable if the first move is effective, the second decision is definitely a mistake. It's like saying "You know what would make Star Wars better? Less lightsaber fighting." When you cut down the boot camp sequences, you're just increasing the percentage of the film that's not as good, which makes the film overall not as good. It also disrupts the narrative in seeing the deterioration of Pvt. Pyle, who now seems to go from incompetent screwup to deadly psychopath literally overnight.

The stylistic choice of black & white for the boot camp was okay for me, but several of the visual transitions were uneven. The audio was pretty great though, including (as mentioned by another reviewer) using "Satisfaction". I'd debate exactly where these edits should be placed though. It's hard to tell with the boot camp material being shorter, but it feels like it's still too front-loaded and the ending section in Hue continues for this long, unbroken, almost boring stretch. Honestly, thematically this film resolves in the boot camp storyline, and if you're splicing the timelines together, this doesn't accomplish the goal. I think what WOULD do it is
You start with "These Boots Are Made For Walking", as JSW brilliantly did. Then let much of the early war play out as normal. As the film goes, increasingly cut back more and more to boot camp. I think there are enough scenes with close-ups on Pvt. Joker's face to freeze there and crossfade to boot camp, as if he's remembering/haunted. This culminates in Hue where he's prowling through the building looking for the sniper. Cut to him on patrol at boot camp and finding Pyle in the bathroom. Cut back to him faced with the sniper and his gun jams. Cut back to the drill instructor coming into the bathroom and berating Pyle . Cut back to Hue where Rafterman saves Joker and Joker is faced with putting the girl out of her misery. Cut back to Pyle shooting himself. Cut back to Joker shooting the girl. Roll credits.

This film tries to strengthen the film by spreading out its best parts, but it actually lessens it by cutting those parts and not connecting them to the main narrative. Sadly, I can't recommend it as an alternative viewing, because I don't think watching it this way really improves the experience at all. There's potential here for a V2 though.

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