Second Jake Gyllenhaal movie in 10 days! He plays a very different character to the cowboy of Brokeback Mountain: a young Marine sniper sent to fight Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, who goes half-mad hanging around in Kuwait for the fighting to begin.
The plot is too weak to sustain a 122-min film, but the cinematography is beautiful. The orange hues from flaming oil wells playing over the desert sands look stunning. Gyllenhaal captures the vulnerability of his character, but director Sam Mendes obviously needs some real stars like Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening to come up with a triumph like American Beauty.
The film has been criticised in some quarters for not adopting an anti-war tone. This is unfair, as it is explicitly a very personal view of the war (based on the autobiography by Lance Corporal Anthony Swafford). The film certainly conveys the futility of the soldier as a pawn in the mighty technological struggle and geopoliticking of modern warfare. It pulls no punches in its portrayal of the death and destruction visited upon Iraq. Only the most gung-ho would come away from the film feeling anything but disgust.