Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jarhead (8) vs. 300 (9)

ACTING: Both movies have fine casts and are well acted. Jake Gyllenhaal as Anthony Swofford does a good job portraying a Marine sniper who is tested mentally and physically by the stress of waiting for combat and then combat itself. Gerard Butler as King Leonidas gives a powerful performance and captures the arrogance of a Spartan king. The supporting casts are strong in both movies. 300 includes a break-out performance by Lena Hedey as Leonidas’ wife. Jarhead has the ever reliable Jamie Foxx as the gruff sergeant. I give a slight edge to 300.

Score after one period: 300 – 8 Jarhead – 7

REALISM: Jarhead is based on an acclaimed memoir. If we assume Swofford was telling the truth, then the movie should be pretty realistic. However, the book and movie have been criticized for being melodramatic and over the top in its depiction of the behavior of young Marines. It seems unlikely all the wild incidents could have happened to the same platoon. Swofford almost killing a fellow soldier is an example. However, the movie deserves credit for portraying war as a lot of waiting and not a lot of combat. The attitudes of the Marines seem authentic. 300 is not supposed to be realistic. It is true to the spirit of the graphic novel by Frank Miller. Given that qualification, it is surprisingly close to the real story in several areas – Spartan training, weapons and tactics, and attitudes. Under the circumstances it is fair to give it a default 6.

Score after the second period: Jarhead – 15 300 - 14

ACCURACY: It is hard to judge the accuracy of Jarhead. We have to rely on Swofford’s word for some of it. Some of the incidents seem exaggerated at the least. The crucial scene where he is denied his opportunity to get a kill is changed in the movie for dramatic effect. The Highway of Death scene is highly unlikely. On the other hand, 300 is based around the Battle of Thermopylae, but is not meant to be a history lesson. It is surprisingly accurate for a movie that is so extravagant. The basics of the battle are there. Several of the main characters are based on real people. If you throw out the fantastic elements and the subplot of government treachery, it is acceptable as history.

Score after the third period: Jarhead – 23 300 – 20

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Jarhead suffers from lack of action. The accurate depiction of how most soldiers do not get to kill in combat is admirable, but ultimately unfulfilling. Swofford’s descent into mental breakdown because of his obsession with his girlfriend’s infidelity is not really believable. Several members of the unit show stress related disorders when in fact they had not been through anything particularly harsh. 300 was a revolutionary movie. Nothing like it had been seen before, at least in a war movie. The visuals are stunning and the combat scenes are mesmerizing. The fact that this cinema eye candy was structured around a true story and had strong acting to go with the effects make it a special movie.

Final Score:      Acting     Realism    Accuracy    Enter.    Final

Jarhead                 7              8                 8                 6          29

300                       8               6                6                 10        30


  1. No clue why you chose to pair these two and not, let's say 300 with Troy and Jarhead with The Hurt Locker?

  2. Once I got my sixteen, I went to Rotten Tomatoes and used their percentages of good reviews to rank them. It did make for some strange pairings, but it was fair.

  3. Hey i enjoy this concept. Good creative idea. And in the real tournament you get odd matchups all the time im sure.
    Thats a fair win for 300. Better, more imaginative movie then Jarhead. Jarhead is similar to Full Metal Jacket to me. More about preparing for war then actually being in war. So in that way its really more a "coming of age" story from a war point of view. I did like how the one dude got so pissed off cause he couldnt get his kill. That was an interesting take on modern warfare.
    I like 300 mainly because it tried something new.Similar to Sin City. The irony was when Miller tried to do the same thing with The Spirit he bombed big time. Shame there, waste of a good pulp character. The battle scenes were very dynamic. Directors like Snyder and Tarintino discovered you can pour on the blood if you make it comic book black. Remember that scene in Kill Bill when Uma demolishes an entire assassin army in the teahouse...
    I wonder when they are going to finally make Gates of Fire? The other Thermopoly movie. Now that was a good book.
    By the way the only unfair thing about this game is the know a spartan would give a kickass halftime speech. A jarhead wouldnt stand a chance.

  4. Thanks. I'm enjoying doing it. Gates of Fire would be a great movie, but I would think 300 will make it harder to green light.

    I love movies like Sin City (and hopefully Sucker Punch) because they are different. When they combine that style and 3D, I'll be on board.

    It's a shame that scene about the aborted kill is not accurate. It actually got called off over the radio. I thought it kind of made these Marines look a bit like candy-asses who would whine about not getting to kill someone and going through all kinds of mental anguish when they encountered nothing equivalent to soldiers in almost any other American war.

  5. what role if any did he portray in the movie jarhead?

  6. I do not understand who you are talking about. Please specify.


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