Full Metal Jacket was released in 1987 when I was still at school. I must have caught up with it on VHS video after it was released to the home video market in the UK. It was probably my first Stanley Kubrick film (apart from watching Spartacus with my parents when it was shown on TV).
Stanley divided opinions; I know many directors and writers who can’t stand his films. Me, I adore Kubrick. He’s cold, calculating and very funny. He was also a real auteur; he had money, control and carte blanche from Warner Brothers. He made this film, set in Vietnam, in an abandoned gas works in London.
For any budding filmmakers I’d suggest you get into Kubrick, he knew cameras, scripts, producing, art direction and distribution. He lived like a king and lived cinema 24/7. He was also a little odd, but to me he seemed nice and intelligent. He didn’t suffer fools but he also inspired many to be filmmakers.
I’ll write about Eyes Wide Shut and his other movies at a later date, but watching his last film play in the cinema after his death, I sensed we wouldn’t see the likes of Stanley again, and so far, I feel I’m pretty much right.
Full Metal Jacket is film about a pacifist who learns to be a killer, as simple as that. It’s brutal, hilarious, clever, suspenseful and nasty. It’s almost a film of two halves too. Half in training, half in battle. I don’t want to give too much away, but Platoon, which is a good film, now looks very old fashioned compared to Full Metal Jacket, which still looks and feels contemporary, it hasn’t dated. Nor have many of Kubrick’s other films. He was a step in front of all of us.
So, 84 films to go!
Matthew Cooper has written for Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. He was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge and the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize. His first short film starred a then unknown Ewan McGregor and was picked up by Channel Four when Matthew was 19 years old. He’s been a script writer for hire and filmmaker for hire for over 20 years.