Full Metal Jacket
Today, you people are no longer maggots. Today, you are Marines. You're part of a
brotherhood. From now on until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine
is your brother. Most of you will go to Vietnam. Some of you will not come back.
But always remember this: Marines die.
The protagonist is J.T. Davis, nicknamed Joker, a member of 3092 platoon, beginning recruit training as a Marine on Parris Island, South Carolina.
The brutal command of Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, shows the harsh indoctrination of Marine recruits. The Vietnam War is ongoing, and his job is to produce trained killers who will not hesitate when the decisive moment arrives. The film's first section focuses on the physical and psychological mistreatment of recruit Leonard Lawrence, whom the drill instructor nick-names Gomer Pyle.
Hartman immediately pegs Pyle as a misfit. He is socially awkward, overweight and out of shape. He has trouble coping with the physical rigors of boot camp. He also does not adhere well to orders and procedures. Whether this is from carelessness, anxiety, or lack of intelligence is never made clear. His deficiencies seem to personally offend Hartman, and he punishes him as a kind of lesson to the others. Hartman ultimately appoints Joker as Pyle's mentor, stressing that Joker will set Pyle straight. During an inspection, Hartman discovers a contraband jelly doughnut in Pyle's foot locker, and decides to administer collective punishment for the platoon every time Pyle messes up. After numerous collective punishments, the platoon gives Pyle a blanket party, discharging their anger upon him while simultaneously achieving team cohesion. Even Joker joins in, but he is obviously moved by Pyle's pitiful sobs of pain and grief.
The next morning, Joker realizes that Pyle has become sullen and withdrawn; he begins to detach himself from the platoon as well as the rest of reality. His expert marksmanship impresses Hartman, but worries Joker, because Pyle converses with his rifle "Charlene". On completing their training, every one in 3092 platoon is assigned a Military Occupational speciality, the most common being 0300- Infantry. On the platoon's last night on Parris Island, Joker is slated firewatch duty, during which he discovers Pyle in the toilet, loading his rifle with live bullets. Frightened, Joker attempts to calm Pyle; he fails and Pyle's screaming rousts Hartman to them. He orders Pyle to put down the rifle and step away from it; misreading Pyle, Hartman is shot dead. Pyle then commits suicide as the stunned Joker watches.
The second part of the story occurs in Vietnam, in 1968. Joker is a Corporal and a Marine combat correspondant with stars and stripes, assigned to a Marine public affairs unit, with his new partner, a combat photographer known as Rafterman. The action is quiet where they are, as the Grunts are the ones who are in the "shit" (battlefield); until the Tet offensive begins, and the Marine base is attacked. That night, Joker fights his first battle when the Viet Cong attempt to overrun the base. Next day, the PA staff learn about the situation from their superior. Joker is sent to the front lines because of his ironic sense of humor, and Rafterman tags along looking for some "trigger time."
Joker links up with "Cowboy," his friend from boot camp, who is second in command of the Lusthog Squad, and accompanies Cowboy's squad on patrol in a city. A vicious battle breaks out, initially resulting in the death of Cowboy's platoon leader, which leaves a Marine nicknamed Crazy Earl as the new squad leader. Earl leads the Lusthog Squad through a ruined section of the city. One of the film's standout sequences shows the squad being interviewed individually by a television news crew and expressing their thoughts on the war.
The squad is called up for patrol again, this time north of the Perfume River (which divides the city), where enemy forces are believed to be hiding. Crazy Earl comes across a stuffed animal and picks it up. The toy is a trap, and the ensuing blast kills Earl and leaves Cowboy the reluctant squad leader. The squad quickly becomes lost in the ruined city, and a sniper wounds two of their comrades, Doc Jay and Eightball, with the intention of drawing more of them in. As the squad moves up to try to locate the hidden position, the sniper kills Cowboy too. With his Marines by his side, Cowboy dies in Joker's arms. Using smoke to conceal their advance, the squad closes in and Animal Mother assumes control of the remaining Marines. As they fan out through the likely building, Joker finds the sniper. At the critical moment his rifle jams and the sniper, a young Vietnamese girl, opens fire, pinning Joker behind a column, making it impossible for him to escape or shoot back. Rafterman arrives and shoots the sniper, saving Joker. As Joker, Rafterman, Animal Mother, and the rest of the remaining Marines gather around the girl she begins to pray, then begs the Marines to kill her. Joker and Animal Mother argue over leaving her to suffer and die slowly. Ultimately, he allows a mercy killing, but only if the combat-deprived Joker performs it, who finishes her off after a long pause.
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