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The film is a war movie based on US – Vietnam war depicting the most brutal fight that took place in Hue in the year 1968. A Warner Brothers movie directed by Stanley Kubrick was released in the year 1987 which revolves around the story of the Marines who go on to kill the so called “Gooks”. The movie talks all about the bravery of the American soldiers as they bravely kill the Vietnamese. The topics such as sexuality, gender and a portion of orientalism has been covered though there hasn’t been much light on the life of Vietnamese as such.
We just see the Vietnamese either being killed or the Vietnamese soldiers at war with the glimpse of the Women in general, but the whole story rotates about the Americans and their heartlessness.
The movie begins at the training camp in South Carolina USA. Here, we see fresh recruits who are made to train under a ruthless sergeant R. Lee as “Major Hartman” who uses lines such as “I am Hard, you won’t like me.
You will not cry or say anything because I will teach you” indicating his harshness and his ruggedness in his teaching methods. He keeps all nicknames for his recruits and amongst them there are Mathew Modine as “Joker”, dull- and dim-witted Vincent as “Gomer Pyle” and Arliss Howard as “Private Cowboy”.
“Pyle” being the slow learner and over-weight becomes the major attraction for Hartman to penalize even for the slightest mistakes. Dialogues such as “Can’t do one single pull up, piece of shit Private Pyle” are commonly heard from Hartman as he doubts on Pyle’s ability because of his stature.
All the recruits are made to pray while going to bed with their rifle. Here we see feminism coming into picture where a gun is compared with that of a woman. The trainees are made to sleep with the gun and are told that she is the only woman whom they have to love. Hartman says” Your gun is nothing without you, you are nothing without your gun” indicating the importance of rifle in the life of the Marines. Even in his drill he compares most of the drill exercises with that of sexuality which shows his vulgarity to train the young and make them rigid. As the training approaches an end we see Pyle improving upon his skills which impresses Hartman and he is assigned infantry though Joker who is always praised for his guts is assigned journalism. During the last day we see Pyle starts to recite the drill with his gun in the bathroom. Joker notices him which eventually alarms everyone and wakes them up. Hartman comes in to see and to his amuse finds Pyle with his gun and Joker standing. Upon orders of surrendering the rifle, Pyle shoots Hartman and then himself indicating that he wasn’t able to take all the humility that he faced. Through this incident there comes an inference that the war is only for the brave who shall survive against the enemies.
Moving on we see a Vietnamese woman walking on the streets in Vietnam who has been portrayed as a sex worker as she confronts “Joker” and the cameraman Kevyn Major as “Rafterman” one of the sidekicks in the entire film. Another side of Vietnam comes into picture as we see two Vietnamese riding on the scooter and stealing the wallet of Rafterman while he tries to pay the prostitute. This scene throws light on the way Vietnamese were considered where the women are a symbol of sex and pleasure while the men in particular have no standing but as goons and thieves which reflects their poverty and helplessness.
As the movie progresses we see Rafterman and Joker heading in helicopter to the war base. They watch the “Doorgunner” with full awe as he goes on boasting about the number of gooks he killed so far being 157. Seeing the bloodshed Rafterman is not able to hold his vomit and the Joker asks, “Were there any women or children?” to which the Gunner replies “maybe” and says,“go easy”. This scene clearly indicates that even women and children who had no connection with the war weren’t spared clearly indicative of American bloodthirstiness and their superiority.
During the Field battle at PhuBai lake, we see Joker interviewing the Colonel and to his amaze the Colonel asks about the significance of the badge of peace symbol on his shirt and the contrasting “Born to Kill” on his helmet to which Joker replies “duality of man” indicating the bipolarity of being no right or wrong in war. To suggest and throw light on the American way of treating the “Gooks” again we see the Colonel saying, “We are here to help the Vietnamese because inside very Gook is an American trying to get out”. Such a line is suggestive that the Americans feel the presence of their own people in the Vietnamese and they are killing them only for peace.
Moving forward we see a joke is made on the dead Vietnamese Soldier even. As Joker and Rafterman enter the Army Base at Hue and as Rafterman is taking photos of the whole scene “Earl” one of the troop members calls him in to take the picture with his brother who apparently turns out to be a dead Vietnamese soldier. Clearly even the dead were also made fun of as Earl portrays himself as grateful to have killed the enemy drill instructor.
Not only do we find Vietnamese being subdued but we see other class of people as well especially the African Americans who are illtreated by the Americans. At the war base, we again see a Vietnamese prostitute on a bike heading towards the base. As she talks about having sex, Dorian “Eightball”, one of the African American comes forward but soon his friend “Animal Mother” takes on the girl being white and not being a “Nigger”. This indicates the white supremacy once again against any class or color.
Later we see that most of the troops are shot dead by a lone sniper and as the troop head “Cowboy” tells them to recede back to their base camp to which the combat hungry Marine “Animal Mother” insists on staying back and killing the lone sniper on watching the horrific scene of his friend “Eightball” die. Notably at the end we find a young Vietnamese girl in the building holding in the company of American Soldiers knowing that she is going to be killed but her job is to somehow just disrupt and delay their progress which shows the actual Vietnam.
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