“This film feels, very tense and personal.  The fighting looks extremely real, the actors appear to bleed and die before your eyes and the film is not attempting to glamorize war, because that’s the last thing war is.”

by Martin Hafer

Despite its name and less than impressive budget, the film is terrific.

The title for this film, Jarhead 2: Field of Fire, appears to be very poorly chosen.  This is because it really isn’t a sequel to Jarhead and you certainly don’t need to have seen this prior film to appreciate this new movie.  On its own, it’s an exceptional film and I strongly recommend it.  And, if you didn’t know it, a jarhead is a nickname for US Marines–and it’s a name they often call each other.

The film is about a small group of soldiers serving in Afghanistan.  Oddly, despite this war having lasted well over a decade, very few movies have really talked about it.  This picture is a tribute to the American and Afghan soldiers fighting against the Taliban–and it makes its point very personally.  Now I know some people reading this have very strong feelings for and against this war–I myself have very mixed feelings.  But you cannot help but admire the courage of the individuals willing to risk their lives after you see this film no matter what your views on the war might be.  And the film manages to praise and honor them without being jingoistic or overtly political.

Jarhead 2: Field of Fire
Directed by
Don Michael Paul
Cast
Jason Wong, Asen Asenov, Daniel Coetzer
Release Date
19 August 2014
Martin’s Grade: A

As I watched Jarhead 2, I really wish I could have seen the film with some soldiers who actually have served in Afghanistan to get their insights into the realism of the project.  To me, it looked insanely real–about as real and scary as any war picture can be.  Although the movie was filmed in Bulgaria, it managed to look pretty much like what I expected Afghanistan to look like.  And, the soldiers seemed very professional and believable–like real soldiers.  Now for some, this is a problem.  To make the film realistic, the film is very bloody.  Additionally, like real soldiers, the actors in this film TALK like soldiers–crude, sexually suggestive and totally inappropriate for small kids and the easily offended.  However, this DID make the film seem very real, as the soldiers I’ve known sounded just like these young men and women.  Because of all this, the film easily earns its R rating–but I still encourage you to see it.  After all, war is so detached from most of us.  We see a few reports on TV but really have little idea of the sacrifice or hell these folks go through–and the film is probably about as close as we can get to knowing what it’s like to be on the frontlines without actually going there.  Having unfamiliar faces instead of familiar actors only adds to this effect.

The film has a very simple plot.  A convoy is taking supplies to another location when they happen upon a couple US Navy Seals who are trying to escort a local woman to safety.  Why, exactly, she is with them is something you learn later in the film.  However, the rescue of the Seals and the woman is NOT the end of their problems–it’s only the beginning.  Soon the caravan is set upon by Taliban fighters and many of the soldiers and all of the vehicles are destroyed.  How can the few remaining stragglers possibly escape now that they are trapped behind enemy lines?

This film feels, very tense and personal.  The fighting looks extremely real, the actors appear to bleed and die before your eyes and the film is not attempting to glamorize war, because that’s the last thing war is. This makes the movie tough viewing and certainly isn’t for everyone.  However, I do strongly recommend the film for many reasons.  First, war SHOULD be shown as personal and bloody and awful because it is!  While I love old films, the sanitized version of war we got in the 1940s and 50s films from Hollywood made it all seem very ‘nice’ and Jarhead 2 strips away the myth.  Second, although I assume this is a relatively low budget film (despite being released by Universal), you certainly can’t tell.  The writing, acting and sets all look great and seem real.  They certainly got a lot for the money they spent to make this film.  Third, I hate that most folks almost always go just to the big-budgeted mega-movies.  Many of these films are quite formulaic and the studios don’t need your money.  Instead, consider spending it on a film that is high quality and gripping from start to finish and which doesn’t star Johnny Depp, George Clooney or Angelina Jolie.  I have nothing against these actors, but sometimes a film can achieve even more without a big name in the film and Jarhead 2 actually is a first-rate film.

As always, I’d love to hear from you about the movie.  Especially if you are a serviceman or servicewoman, I’d love to know your thoughts–both positive and negative.