Saturday, October 22, 2005

Jarhead: Film Review & 5-Spot w/ Anthony Swofford

In 1990 a 20-year old Tony Swofford enlisted in the Marine Corps and soon found himself in the Desert of the real that was the first Gulf War. Thirteen years later, his memoirs of what took place over there, Jarhead, became a critically hailed best-seller and spent two months on the NY Times list. As fate would have it, the book has been made into a film...

Q: So, how surreal was it for you to see Jake Gyllenhaal playing you up on the movie screen?

AS: It's rather strange to see an actor onscreen being called "Swoff" and Swofford and the long list of obscenities that were sent my way by drill instructors and other warm folks.

Q: And seeing your romantic and military relationships in the past played out again?

AS: Yeah, with Christina? Yeah, well that was weird. But that was a long time ago, like fifteen years ago now. You know, about broken hearts. It's a pretty common experience for young men who go off to war things at home fall apart. The great line in the film that comes from the book was "Swoffard's a jarhead. What happening here doesn't matter to everyone back home - their lives go on." That's really important in the book and the film.

Q: You're obviously here because you like the film but did you have any input in the film making once you sold the rights to your memoirs?

AS: Everyone was very concerned with how they were going to treat the script and how they were going to treat the adaptation from the book. We all agreed very early on that there were certain scenes that had to move from the book to the film During the last rehearsals I came out one day and met Jake one afternoon for lunch, Bill and Sam were both there and Sam sort of lead the conversation. He was asking a lot of questions -- the answers to which he already knew -- I think for Jake's sake, like biography from beyond what's in the book.

Q: You write in the book and we see in the movie that other war films like Platoon and Apocalypse Now were utilized to get soldiers fired up just before going into combat. Are you at all weary that the same thing's going to happen with Jarhead?

AS: I have that fear in terms of my book too. What I think the book does different than the films that I mentioned is that it slows down the action...It's not full of combat scenes. It's not full of arms getting blown off and gaping, sucking chest wounds. Because we know that. We see that. People go to war and they die these gruesome deaths, we've seen them on films. Jarhead the film slows down that action as well. And there's a lot of time for the interior, psychological space of the warrior to be rendered onscreen.

Q: Did you write this memoir to gain catharsis on what your service in the Gulf War really meant and how surprised were you that Hollywood wanted to make your book into a film?

AS: I'm not really sure that it was cathartic. I wrote the book not for catharsis but because I felt like it was an essential, important American story and, as a writer, it was the subject that was right in front of me that was most relevant. For my first book, to write the best book, the most vivid book that I possibly could I think that I needed to go through this experience. I think Hollywood likes good stories -- exciting, compelling stories and I think that Jarhead offers that -- I'm not surprised.

Jarhead Review

War!Good God!What is it good for? Apparently book topics and movie screenplays...Set in 1991, Jarhead's based on Gulf War Veteran Anthony Swofford's memoir with the same title. In the film, "Swoff", played by Jake Gyllenhaal, follows in his father's footsteps and enlists into "mother Green and her fighting machine" - the U.S. Marine Corp -- which puts him smack, dab in the middle of the desert of the Persian Gulf. Swofford, and his homebiscuit Troy (Sargaard) crank things up a notch and sign up to train as snipers in a STA unit which puts them under the tutelege of Staff Sgt. Sykes (Foxx) -- who's born-again-hard about keeping his men's powder dry on the battle field with rigorous rounds of physical endurance testing and mind games. In Jarhead Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) peels the onion off of Swoff's perspective of everything with dialogue filled to the brim with military jargon (the title says it all) and a narration with Gyllenhaal's "whatever-dude" speech pattern thrown in for texture. Some might think that this film's all about warfare but it really isn't. Like the book, it's about a newly-christened warrior, who just happens to be caught in a conflict. Surprisingly, the screenplay stays incredibly close to what was written by the author and still Mendes manages to pull a rabbit out his arse with an absorbing, ricky-tick pace and some surreal-ass oil-fire sequences that'll peel your wig back. Go see this film, if for nothing else, to get a better visage of the living hell a soldier faces while fighting the war within and without.

Jarhead is set to be released on October 28th in L.A. & NY and then nationally on November 4th...I think, Laters...


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