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Review: written 3rd June 2007

Great scenes, so-so movie.

What can you say about a movie that has so many fine ingredients? This is all the hallmarks of a great movie - great director, terrific acting, epic cinematography, relevant message. And yet without a real narrative to hang on, this is a movie about the atmosphere - in particular, the cumulative effect of atmosphere. It will depend on the viewer if that atmosphere is enough to sustain interest. Jake Gyllenhaal is terrifically convincing as the naïve `average young man' who joins up instead of going to college. His journey is the lynchpin of the movie, and he makes it work. He starts off in the usual drill-sergeant-shouting-at-recruits type scenes, and eventually makes his way to the Gulf. Once there, the movie is about waiting. The boredom and frustration of these men being built up to act, and then being made to sit on their heels unable to act. Problem is, in convincingly conveying the boredom and frustration of the men, the viewer becomes equally bored and frustrated. The war starts, and yet the frustration is never truly released for this group of marines, and in the final scenes the end is somewhat bleak to say the least. The cream of the most macho soldiers are made to look impotent. This is a timely look at what some of the pressures must have been like in this conflict, and indeed more recent conflicts. As the lead says towards the end - Every war is different - and every war is the same.

So is this enough to spend your two hours on the couch..? The answer is probably only just - there was more that could have been made of these memoirs. But accepting its flaws, it’s probably still interesting enough to get through - though not if you are an action junkie.

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