From the opening shot with the actors playing the Marine recruits having their heads roughly shaved at the start of the training, Kubrick captures the life in US service during the Vietnam War. It follows the recruits being relentlessly tormented by Gny. Sgt, Hartman (R. Lee Ermer) through their training then following them to Vietnam; to the impatience of life on base to the horrors of life in the field.
There really can be no denying that Kubrick was a master filmmaker. I wonder if a film now could be made with the long, drawn out establishing shots like this. Kubrick captures so many stages of life as a Marine. The destruction of the spirit of less capable recruits like Private Leonard (Vincent D’Onofrio); the anger and bloodlust of some in the field like Animal Mother (Adam Baldwin); the speculation and curiosity of the observer journalist/soldier like Joker (Matthew Modine). It’s a beautiful and horrible yet magnificent film.
Full Metal Jacket was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.