Jarhead (film): Wikis


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Theatrical poster
Directed by Sam Mendes
Produced by Douglas Wick
Lucy Fisher
Written by Timothy Lam (screenplay)
Anthony Swofford (book)
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal
Peter Sarsgaard
Lucas Black
Jamie Foxx
Chris Cooper
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Editing by Walter Murch
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) United States:
November 4, 2005
Running time 123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $72,000,000
Gross revenue $97,000,000

Jarhead is a 2005 film based on U.S. Marine Anthony Swofford's 2003 Gulf War memoir of the same name, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Swofford. The title comes from the slang term used to refer to Marines (sometimes by Marines themselves). The film was directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes.



The film begins with voice-over narration on a black screen, as Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal), waxes philosophically about a Marine whose hands forever remember the grip of a rifle, whatever else they do in life. Swofford is then shown in a U.S. Marine Corps boot camp, being brutalized by a drill instructor. After finishing boot, "Swoff" is dispatched to Camp Pendleton in 1989, where he is subjected to a cruel joke played on him by the senior Marines. This involves branding onto him the initials of the United States Marine Corps, USMC, with a hot iron. He faints upon sight of the iron. After regaining consciousness, he is told that the senior Marines had switched the hot iron with another room temperature iron. He is greeted coolly by Troy (Peter Sarsgaard), who says to him, "Welcome to the Suck."

Swofford comes across the charismatic Staff Sergeant Sykes (Jamie Foxx), a Marine "lifer" who invites Swofford to his Scout Sniper (formally the Surveillance and Target Acquisition) course. After arduous training sessions that claim the life of one recruit, he becomes a sniper and is paired with Troy, who becomes Swofford's spotter. Shortly after, Kuwait is invaded by Iraq and Swofford's unit is dispatched to the Persian Gulf as a part of Operation Desert Shield. Although the Marines are very eager to see some combat action, they are forced to hydrate, wait, patrol the nearby area and orient themselves to the arid environment. When some field reporters appear, Sykes forces his unit to demonstrate their NBC suits in a game of American football, even under the 112 °F (44 °C) heat. While the cameras roll, the game develops into a rowdy dogpile, with some Marines playfully miming sex acts. Sykes, embarrassed by his platoon's rude manners and poor discipline, removes the cameras and crew from the area; the Marines are later punished by being forced to build and take down a massive pyramid of sandbags in a rainy night.

During the long wait, some of the Marines fear their wives and girlfriends at home will be unfaithful. A public board displays the photos of women who have ended their relationships with members of the unit. Swofford himself begins to suspect that his girlfriend is, or will soon be, unfaithful. The most public and humiliating of these befalls Dettman (Marty Papazian), who discovers an innocent looking copy of The Deer Hunter on VHS sent from his wife, which the men are all seated to watch, is actually a homemade pornographic movie tape of her having sex with their neighbor, apparently made as revenge for an unspecified act.

During an impromptu Christmas party, Fergus (Brian Geraghty), a member of Swofford's unit, accidentally sets fire to a tent and a crate of flares. Swofford gets the blame because he was supposed to be on watch, but had Fergus sit in for him. As a consequence, Swofford is demoted from Lance Corporal (E-3) to Private (E-1) and is forced to undertake the degrading task of burning "diesel fuel" (excrement). The punishments, the heat and the boredom, combined with suspicions of his girlfriend's infidelity and feelings of isolation, temporarily drive Swofford to the point of mental breakdown. He threatens and nearly shoots fellow Marine Fergus.

After the long stand in the desert, Operation Desert Storm, the coalition force's ground campaign, begins, and the Marines are dispatched to the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. Briefly before the action begins, Swofford learns from Sykes that Troy concealed his criminal record when enlisting and will be discharged after the end of hostilities. Following an accidental air attack from friendly forces, the Marines advance through the desert, facing no enemies on the ground. The troops march through the Highway of Death, strewn with the burnt vehicles and charred bodies of retreating Iraqi soldiers, the product of a U.S. bombing campaign. Later, the Marines encounter burning oil wells, lit by the retreating Iraqis, and they attempt to dig sleeping holes as a rain of crude oil falls from the sky. Before they can finish them Sykes orders the squad to move to where the wind prevents the oil from raining on them. While digging new sleeping holes, Swoff discovers Fowler has defiled an Iraqi corpse which drives Swoff to the point of wanting to fight him. However he merely takes the body and buries it somewhere else.

Swofford and Troy are finally given a combat mission. Their order is to shoot two Iraqi officers, supposedly located in a control tower at a battle-damaged airport. The two take up positions in a deserted building, but moments after Swofford pinpoints one of the officers in his sights, another team of Marines appears and calls in an air strike. Troy, desperate to make a kill, pleads with the officer in charge (Dennis Haysbert) to let them take the shot. When his pleas are denied, Troy breaks down in a fit of despair and weeps. Moments later the airport is bombed by U.S. warplanes. Swofford and Troy linger at the site in a daze, losing track of time and missing their pick-up. With night falling, they try to navigate the desert but get lost. Distant cries in the darkness frighten them, and as they begin to sense that the sounds are coming from beyond a ridge, they ready their weapons and prepare to descend. They see an encampment in the distance, but on closer look they recognize it as their base camp, and the sounds as Marine voices. The war is over, they learn, and scores of Marines celebrate this amidst a bonfire. In a climactic scene Swofford tells Troy he never fired his rifle, getting a response of "You can do it now". He then fires a round in the air from his sniper rifle and the other Marines, who also never had a chance to fire their weapons, follow suit, emptying magazines into the night sky.

On returning home the troops parade through the towns in a jovial celebration of victory. The mood is disturbed when a disheveled Vietnam veteran, possibly suffering from the memories of the conflict, jumps into their bus, and congratulates them all. The veteran, still clearly disturbed by his experiences in Vietnam, asks the men if he can sit with them. Soon after their return home, Swofford and his comrades are discharged and go on with their separate lives. Swofford returns home to his girlfriend, but discovers her with a new boyfriend. Fowler (Evan Jones) is seen to be spending time with a girl at a bar, Kruger (Lucas Black) is seen in a corporate boardroom, Escobar (Laz Alonso) as a supermarket employee, Cortez (Jacob Vargas) as a father of three kids, and Sykes continuing his service as a First Sergeant in Operation Iraqi Freedom. An unspecified amount of time later, Swofford learns of Troy's death during a surprise visit from Fergus. He attends the funeral, meets some of his old friends, and afterwards he reminisces about the effects of the war.


Jake Gyllenhaal as LCpl/PFC Anthony Swofford aka Swoff. Swoff is the protagonist of the film. He comes from a family of military men, his father and uncle having served in Vietnam. Swoff often wonders if his girlfriend is cheating on him, with his suspicions eventually being confirmed. Swoff is from Sacramento, California.

Peter Sarsgaard as Alan Troy. Troy is Swoff's friend and spotter. Troy is one of the few Marines who enjoys being in the military. However his background is shady. Later on it is revealed Troy can't reenlist because he lied about having a criminal past on his application. On the night before Desert Storm, Swoff provokes Troy into attacking him. The squad seizes the opportunity and brand Troy with "USMC" on his calf making him a "Marine for life." Troy is from Greenville, Michigan.

Jamie Foxx as SSgt Sykes. Sykes is a Marine lifer. He is Swoff and Troy's training SNCO during Scout Sniper training at Camp Pendleton. He leads their platoon through the Gulf War. Sykes is strict but fair. He states that he had an opportunity to have a dry wall business with his brother in Compton but chose not to saying he loves being in the Marine Corps too much. In the end montage, Sykes is shown leading Marines during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lucas Black as LCpl Chris Kruger. Kruger is the dissenter of the group. On their trip to the base Kruger states that the only reason the troops are there is to protect the profits of the oil tycoons. During his television interview Kruger doesn't speak at all because he can't state his mind. Before Desert Storm, Kruger initially doesn't take the anti-gas agents because they're not proven and possibly dangerous and refuses to sign the waiver. It's not until Sykes tells him about what the gas did to the Kurds and Kruger takes the pill but when Sykes looks away Kruger spits it out. In the end montage, Kruger is shown in a corporate boardroom, showing how his questioning and open-minded ways may have done him more good in the long run than the blind obedience of his fellow Marines. Kruger is from Baytown, Texas.

Evan Jones as PFC Dave Fowler. Fowler is the most gung ho of the group. He claims to have shot a camel with an M203 grenade launcher. During Desert Storm he gets out of formation and gets the squad attacked by passing A-10 Warthogs. When the squad camps in the burning oil fields Fowler is discovered to be defiling a burned Iraqi corpse calling it Ahab the Arab. Sykes says he will be brought up for it when they get back. In the end montage Fowler is shown in a bar with a prostitute. Fowler is from Framingham, Massachusetts.

Brian Geraghty as PFC Fergus O'Donnell. Fergus is the most naive of the group. On Christmas Eve he takes Swoff's shift in the flare tent and sets off a crate of flares because he was clumsy while making sausages. Later on Swoff threatens to kill Fergus for it. During the celebration at the end of the war, Fergus burns his NBC suit saying "We never have to come back to this shithole ever again!" Fergus is from Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.

Laz Alonso as LCpl Ramon Escobar. A Cuban immigrant, Escobar is the group's radio operator. During his interview, Escobar states that it's an honor to fight for the freedom America has given him. He is a devout Catholic and is shown putting rosary beads on his bedside. He takes much pride in being a Marine often saying how scout snipers are the best. In the end montage Escobar is shown working at a supermarket, stacking crates of soda. Escobar is from Miami, Florida.

Jacob Vargas as LCpl Juan Cortez. Cortez carries the group's radio. In his interview he states one of the reasons he enlisted was to learn skills to go into law enforcement. Cortez has three children, one of whom is born while he's in Saudi Arabia. At the end of the film Cortez is shown with his family at a carnival. Cortez is from Delano, California.

Chris Cooper as LtCol Kazinski. Kazinski is the battalion commander. When the Marines land in Saudi Arabia he gives them a rallying speech but tells them that because of the Washington bureaucrats they must first guard Saudi Arabia from a potential Iraqi invasion. Later he gives Swoff and Troy their only combat mission telling them to show the brass that scout snipers are the best.

John Krasinski as Cpl Harrigan. Harrigan is a Marine whose job it is to write letters to the major's wife although he makes them vulgar and disgusting. He is the Marine Swofford goes to obtain five gallons of beer. Later during the mortar strike, he gives Swoff a dead battery when Swoff must replace the radio batteries.


The film received positive to mixed reviews from critics, registering a 61 percent rating (53 percent Cream of the Crop) on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave the movie three-and-a-half out of four stars, crediting it for its unique portrayal of Gulf War Marines who battled boredom and a sense of isolation rather than enemy combatants.[1] Entertainment Weekly magazine gave the film a "B+" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "Jarhead isn't overtly political, yet by evoking the almost surreal futility of men whose lust for victory through action is dashed, at every turn, by the tactics, terrain, and morality of the war they're in, it sets up a powerfully resonant echo of the one we're in today".[2] In his review for the Washington Post, Stephen Hunter praised Jake Gyllenhaal's performance: "What's so good about the movie is Gyllenhaal's refusal to show off; he doesn't seem jealous of the camera's attention when it goes to others and is content, for long stretches, to serve simply as a prism though which other young men can be observed".[3] Sight and Sound magazine's Leslie Felperin wrote, "If nothing else, Jarhead provides some kind of reportage of a war whose consequences we haven't yet begun to understand, a war now elbowed into history by its still-raging sequel".[4] USA Today gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, "What we're left with is solid if not exceptional, though it's good to see Mendes expanding as a filmmaker".[5] Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "But the best war movies—and this one, despite its being overlong and repetitive, is among them—hold that men fight (or in this case, are ready to fight) not for causes, but to survive and to help their comrades do the same".[6]

However, in his review for The New York Times, A. O. Scott felt that the film was "full of intensity with almost no real visceral impact", and called it "a minor movie about a minor war, and a film that feels, at the moment, remarkably irrelevant".[7] Kenneth Turan in his review for the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Its polished surfaces and professional style can't compete with the gritty reality conveyed by documentaries like Gunner Palace and Occupation: Dreamland — or, for that matter, by the surreal black comedy of David O. Russell's Three Kings — that show in no uncertain terms what it's like to be a soldier in Iraq".[8] In his review for the Village Voice, J. Hoberman wrote, "A master of the monotone, Mendes prompts his performers to hit a note and sustain it. Although Jarhead is more visually accomplished and less empty than American Beauty or Road to Perdition, it still feels oppressively hermetic".[9]

Nathaniel Fick, another author who is a Marine, gave the film a mixed review (and panned the book on which it is based) in Slate. He wrote, "Jarhead also presents wild scenes that probably could happen in combat units, but strips them of the context that might explain how they're more than sheer lunacy".[10] James Meek, who reported from the battlefields of Iraq, reviewed the film in the pages of The Guardian. He wrote, "The key to a film about war is how it ends, and if the young man at the film's centre is lifted out of the battlefield uninjured and sane, if his family and home life before and after aren't prominent in the picture, the movie is diminished as a film which says something about war and becomes a simpler story of growing up, of jeopardy overcome".[11]


It has been suggested that parts of the Jarhead plot were taken from Joel Turnipseed's 2002 gulf war memoir, Baghdad Express without the author's consent. Jarhead screenwriter William Broyles Jr. has claimed that any likenesses arise from the retelling of common Marine experiences.[12]




Differences from the book

  • In the book, Staff Sergeant Sykes is actually pronounced "Sikes", spelled "Siek", and he has a very small role in the book.
  • In the book Troy is not Swoff's spotter. While Troy was still a close friend of Swoff and indeed in his recon unit, Swoff's spotter was a Marine referred to in the book as "Johnny Rotten," a corporal, who was the next most senior sniper under Sgt. Dunn.
  • The sniper tower scene didn't actually happen as it did. In the book, Swofford and Johnny were supporting some Marine Infantry taking the airfield; they were not interrupted by anyone. They were only ordered not to take the shot.
  • The major, played by Dennis Haysbert, was actually a captain, who insisted on calling in the airstrike, although it was not in the tower, rather when Swoff and his spotter were on the line and were bombarded by Iraqi artillery. The bombardment Swoff underwent is actually shown in the scene when he wets himself in the movie, although they do not call down the airstrike on the Iraqi forward observers, like they do in the book. It was for this purpose that Swofford makes the run to collect the radio batteries.
  • Also, during the "friendly-fire" incident soon after, Swofford and his platoon were fired upon by a mechanized infantry company, call-sign "Ripper". However, in the film adaptation, the platoon is fired upon by a pair of A-10 Thunderbolt II anti-tank aircraft. This is even more unlikely because the platoon is on foot. Also, the A-10s should have already been inside Iraqi territory, possibly hours before the main offensive.[citation needed]
  • Troy did not have a criminal record in the book. The book claimed that Troy was not able to re-enlist in the Marines because of a positive drug urine test; he died in a car accident on the way to work after he left the Marine Corps apparently being drunk and struck a tree after skidding on black ice.
  • The book goes somewhat into Swofford's childhood up until he joined the Marines; however, in the film, his upbringing is only explained in brief detail.
  • The entire oil scene when they dig in the oil wells did not happen in the book, and has led to sharp rebukes from others who had served in the Gulf at the time.[citation needed]
  • In the book, Anthony Swofford wasn't demoted from lance corporal to private, but was reprimanded and forced to burn toilet waste for a week because he was in charge of his platoon, at a time when Sykes was absent, because Dettman failed to wake up at 0400. As a result, Dettman did not wake up the rest of his platoon for planned range time, with Swofford later detailing an incident in the book where he stuck a M-16 rifle to Dettman's head and threatened to kill Dettman because of this. Furthermore, Swofford claims in his book that he only burned the waste for one day and paid another Marine to burn the waste for the remaining six days. Later, after his return to the United States, LCpl Swofford was promoted to corporal.
  • In the film Swoff claims he only saw the Iraqi troops (alive) once during his the sniper mission. However in the book, Swoff and Troy repeatadly go on missions across the border to observe the Iraqi army's movements.
  • The book does not attribute Dettman's girl friend as inserting her unfaithfulness in a movie that was played for other Marines. While this incident apparently did happen, the affected Marine was unnamed in the book and was never a part of Swofford's unit.


Released on March 7, 2006, the movie is available as a single disc standard version (in both fullscreen and widescreen) and a 2-disc Collector's Edition. Some DVDs came with a pair of dog tags that say "Jarhead" on one side and on the other side, "Welcome to the suck."

The single disc standard version has been included with a protective silver casing, engraved on the front is the shape of a dog tag with the word "Jarhead" written on it.


  1. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 4, 2005). "Jarhead". Chicago Sun-Times. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051103/REVIEWS/51019007/1023. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  2. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (November 2, 2005). "Jarhead". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1125289,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  3. ^ Hunter, Stephen (November 4, 2005). "Jarhead: A Platoon Full of Sand And Grit". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/03/AR2005110302427.html. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  4. ^ Felperin, Leslie (January 2006). "The Longest Days". Sight and Sound. http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/review/3090. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  5. ^ Clark, Mike (November 4, 2005). "A few good men give Jarhead a solid feel". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/reviews/2005-11-03-jarhead_x.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  6. ^ Schickel, Richard (November 2, 2005). "In the Eye of Desert Storm". Time. http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1125340,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  7. ^ Scott, A.O. (November 4, 2005). "Soldiers in the Desert, Antsy and Apolitical". The New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/2005/11/04/movies/04jarh.html. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  8. ^ Turan, Kenneth (November 4, 2005). "Jarhead". Los Angeles Times. http://www.calendarlive.com/movies/reviews/cl-et-jarhead4nov04,0,4760127.story?coll=cl-home-more-channels. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  9. ^ Hoberman, J (October 25, 2005). "Weathering the Storm". Village Voice. http://www.villagevoice.com/2005-10-25/film/weathering-the-storm/. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  10. ^ Fick, Nathaniel (November 9, 2005). "How Accurate Is Jarhead?". Slate. http://slate.msn.com/id/2129813/. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  11. ^ Meek, James (December 16, 2005). "Visions of hell". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2005/dec/16/1. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  12. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/09/movies/09jarred.html

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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Jarhead is a 2005 film based on U.S. Marine Anthony Swofford's 2003 Gulf War memoir of the same name. The title comes from the slang term used to refer to Marines (sometimes by Marines themselves). The film was directed by Sam Mendes.

Staff Sgt. Sykes

  • Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for I am the baddest mother fucker in the valley.
  • I could be working with my brother right now. He's got a dry-wall business in Compton. Does the inside of office buildings — you know, the metal studs. I could be his partner. Said he'd give me that brand new Dodge Ram Charger — you know, the 318 Magnum? The beast? All indoor work, too, lots of AC. I could sleep with my wife every night, fuck her, maybe; take my kids to school every morning. And I'd run his crews, too, probably increase productivity 40 to 50%. Make $100K a year. Do you know why I don't? Because I love this job. I thank God for every fucking day he gives me in the corps, oorah.
  • You are a Marine. There is no such thing as speech that is free. You must pay for everything that you say.

Anthony "Swoff" Swofford

  • But we are still in the desert.

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