This unique, eye-opening documentary by newcomer filmmaker Canaan Brumley shows us the hardship a band of United States Marine Corps recruits face during one trip through boot camp.
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This film is the first half of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket brought to reality. Told in a handful of titled chapters, this portrait of soldiers in training isn’t your average documentary; with no interviews or narration, Brumley presents our characters with visual emotion and intensity. Rather than getting to know each of the recruits personally as they fight through boot camp, we travel the road with them and witness the experiences up close and personal.
We open with an overcrowded bus of young men, anxiously waiting their first orders. Enter the drill sergeant who screams his head off so viciously, you cringe in your seat. As the recruits try to adapt to the new lifestyle, a pack of hysterically angry sergeants are on the prowl at all times, flying across the room and yelling like banshees from hell. We watch them rant when the shoes aren’t polished enough, or the bed is made improperly, or just because your fingernails aren’t clean enough.
The venture that we undergo is sometimes painful to watch, but sometimes a real pleasure. Even in the midst of such a torturous place, some of the shots captured by Brumley are quite beautiful. In one instance, as the men run in formation outside to the drill sergeant’s ritualistic “Left, right, left, right” chant, a flock of birds above them seem to follow the commands, swerving back and forth in a hypnotic rhythm.