Here’s a review of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987) on 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray – release date Sept. 22, 2020. Buy on Amazon
There have been some really great Stanley Kubrick movies released to 4k Blu-ray including 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, and just recently Spartacus. Now, Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket is available on Ultra HD Blu-ray as well as in the 3-Film Stanley Kubrick 4k Collection.
Full Metal Jacket was only nominated for one Academy Award (Best Writing, Based on MaAnother Medium), but the film certainly has more ponderance than its awards and nominations suggest. For fans of war movies, Full Metal Jacket ranks up there with classics such as Apocalypse Now, Patton, and Saving Private Ryan.
“Your so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece.”
The film is hallmarked by unforgettable acting performances from R. Lee Erme (as Gny. Sgt. Hartman), Matthew Modine (Pvt. Joker), and Vincent D’Onofrio (Pvt. Pyle), not to mention incredible and groundbreaking cinematography by Douglas Milsome. The soundtrack hits home featuring hits from period artists like The Dixie Cups, Nancy Sinatra, and The Trashmen, but is underscored by the chilling original compositions by Abigail Mead.
One of the most signature characteristics of Full Metal Jacket is its separation into two parts – each of which could almost be separate films if it were not for the character build-up of Modine’s character Private Joker, and his later reunion with training camp buddy Private Cowboy that ties both ends of the film together.
The first part of the movie, which takes place during Marine training, is actually a study in psychological trauma, as Private Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio) is pushed so hard by Gny. Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) that he eventually loses touch with reality. It’s hard not to think of last year’s award-winning drama Joker in which unchecked depression leads to the turning of Arthur Fleck. In Full Metal Jacket, D’Onofrio (who went on to play in such roles as Wilson Fisk in Marvel’s Daredevil), takes you through the agonizing phases of his training in which he probably shouldn’t have been, or at least without medication.
After the interim, the second movement in Full Metal Jacket takes you to the Marine Corps base at Da Nang, Vietnam, where Private Joker is embedded with a different corps as a wartime journalist. Shortly after the film takes an even darker turn than Pyle’s collapse, addressing the horrors of war and dehumanizing of the enemy. At times, Full Metal Jacket is a hard film to watch, but it’s also a strong reminder of what it was like to be on the front lines of the controversial war that lasted for 20 years.
Full Metal Jacket on Ultra HD Blu-ray is presented in 2160p resolution with HDR10 High Dynamic Range. This is the best the film has ever looked on home media, streaming HEVC compressed video at an average of about 65 Mbps. The HDR BT.2020 spec (on 4k HDR TVs and devices that support HDR10) is noticeably effective in Part 2 when the lighting gets more dramatic as many scenes are set in the jungle and at night when dark areas can get jammed up in compressed black levels. 4k Blu-ray, with its ability to display 10-bits rather than 8-bits on traditional Blu-ray, provides greater expansion of the color range to allow more definition in dark and bright areas.
Take, for example, the scene in which Joker reunites with Cowboy. There’s a deteriorating wall behind Cowboy that’s hit by the sun and maybe slightly overexposed on the negatives. On Blu-ray (and of course whenever presented on broadcast television in compressed 720p or 1080i), the details on that wall are blown out. But on 4k Blu-ray you can actually see every piece of peeling paint. HDR also adds vibrant colors to the already saturated scenes like the bathroom scene with Pyle and Joker, and the end scene in the sniper’s building.
The 4k Blu-ray edition Full Metal Jacket, unfortunately, does not offer upgraded immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, rather, it’s the same 5.1 mix that’s been offered on previous 1080p Blu-ray editions in PCM. However, it’s a quality audio mix and improvement from an earlier lossy 5.1 mix that’s hard to say anything bad about. Audio streamed at 2.2 Mbps on a Sony UBP-X800M2 4k Blu-ray player. As mentioned above the soundtrack is a mix of period rock-in-roll hits and original score by Abigail Mead. Subtitles are offered in English SDH, French, and Spanish.
Previously-released bonus features include audio commentary from Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onfrio, R. Lee Ermey and Critic/Screenwriter Jay Cocks, featurette “Full Metal Jacket – Between Good and Evil,” and theatrical trailer (on both the 4k Blu-ray and Blu-ray Discs). And, the 2-disc combo from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment comes with a Blu-ray and Digital Copy redeemable through the WB.com portal or through Movies Anywhere.
This new remaster of Full Metal Jacket on 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray is well worth the purchase. And, the new Digital Copy of the film looks especially better in 4k/HDR than in previous HD versions (we should note on Apple TV and other services the HDR may be Dolby Vision). Watching an older film in remastered 4k is almost like watching a film for the first time. There are subtleties, details, and colors never seen on a TV at home before. Of course, with newly restored older films viewers may find imperfections that become more evident given the age of the film, such as out of focus shots or bad lighting. But, Full Metal Jacket is not one of them. If only Warner Bros. had updated the 5.1 channel audio, this 4k release would be a 5/5.