Jarhead Information

Jarhead is a 2005 biographical drama war film based on U.S. Marine Anthony Swofford's 2003 memoir of the same name, directed by Sam Mendes, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Swofford with Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard, and Chris Cooper. The title comes from the slang term used to refer to U.S. Marines.


In 1989, Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is being trained in a U.S. Marine Corps boot camp, after which "Swoff" is dispatched to Camp Pendleton. In a flashback, he explains how going to college didn't work out, which is why he joined the military. The flashbacks include scenes from his parent's lives in the 1960s and his own.

Swofford finds his training at Camp Pendleton tough as he struggles through making friends and living day to day, even pretending sickness, a trick Staff Sergeant Sykes (Jamie Foxx) does not fall for; Sykes is a Marine "lifer" who invites Swofford to his Scout Sniper course.

After training sessions that claim the life of one candidate, Swofford is one of the 8 remaining candidates who is trained as a sniper; his roommate Troy (Peter Sarsgaard) becomes his spotter. When Kuwait is invaded by Iraq, Swofford's unit is dispatched to the Persian Gulf as a part of Operation Desert Shield. Although eager to see combat, they spend their time waiting and training, with little more to do than ponder and discuss their typically unfaithful partners back home.

During an impromptu Christmas party instigated by Swofford, who has obtained unauthorized alcohol, Fergus (Brian Geraghty) accidentally sets fire to a tent and a crate of flares. Swofford gets the blame because he was supposed to be on watch but had Fergus sit in for him. Swofford is demoted from Lance Corporal (E-3) to Private (E-1) and is put on shit burning detail. The punishments, the heat and the boredom, combined with suspicions of his girlfriend's infidelity and feelings of isolation, temporarily drive Swofford to the point of mental breakdown - he threatens and nearly shoots fellow Marine Fergus, then turns the weapon on himself and orders the traumatized Fergus to shoot him. When Fergus refuses, Swofford leaves the tent.

After six months in the desert, Operation Desert Storm begins and the Marines are dispatched to the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. Just before, Swofford learns from Sykes that Troy concealed his criminal record when enlisting and will be discharged after the end of hostilities. Troy begins to keep distant from his fellow Marines. Knowing that Troy will never be allowed to re-enlist, the Marines attack him with a red-hot USMC branding iron, marking him as one of their own. Following an accidental air attack from friendly forces, the Marines advance through the desert, facing no enemies on the ground. The troops march through the Highway of Death, strewn with the burnt vehicles and charred bodies of retreating Iraqi soldiers, the aftermath of a U.S. bombing campaign. Later, the Marines suddenly catch sight of distant burning oil wells, ignited only moments before by the retreating Iraqis, and they attempt to dig sleeping holes as a rain of crude oil falls from the sky. Before they can finish, Sykes orders the squad to move upwind.

Swofford and Troy are finally given a combat mission. Their orders are to kill at least one of two high-ranking officers in Saddam's Republican Guard, holed up at a nearby airfield. At the last split second before Swofford takes the shot, Maj. Lincoln (Dennis Haysbert) interrupts them to call in an air strike. Swofford and Troy protest, but they are overruled and later look on in disappointment as the planes destroy the Iraqi airfield.

On returning home the troops parade through the towns in a jovial celebration of victory. Swofford returns home to his family and girlfriend but discovers her with a new boyfriend. Fowler is seen with a prostitute in a bar, Kruger (Lucas Black) in a corporate boardroom, Escobar (Laz Alonso) as a supermarket employee, Cortez (Jacob Vargas) as a father of three, and Sykes continuing his service as a First Sergeant in Operation Iraqi Freedom. An unspecified amount of time later, Swofford learns of Troy's death during a surprise visit from Fergus. He attends the funeral, reunites with some of his old friends and afterwards reminisces about the effects of the war.


  • Jake Gyllenhaal as LCpl/Pvt Anthony Swofford aka Swoff. Swoff is from Sacramento, California.
  • Peter Sarsgaard as Cpl Alan Troy. Troy is Swoff's friend and spotter. Troy is from Greenville, Michigan.
  • Jamie Foxx as SSgt Sykes. Sykes is a Marine lifer. He is Swoff and Troy's training SNCO during Scout Sniper training at Camp Pendleton.
  • Lucas Black as LCpl Chris Kruger. Kruger is the dissenter of the group. He is from Baytown, Texas.
  • Evan Jones as PFC Dave Fowler. Fowler is from Framingham, Massachusetts.
  • Brian Geraghty as PFC Fergus O'Donnell. Fergus is from Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.
  • Laz Alonso as LCpl Ramon Escobar. Escobar is from Miami, Florida.
  • Jacob Vargas as LCpl Juan Cortez. Cortez is from Delano, California.
  • Chris Cooper as LtCol Kazinski. Kazinski is the battalion commander.
  • John Krasinski as Cpl Harrigan.
  • Dennis Haysbert as Major Lincoln, the battalion executive officer.
  • Iván Feny"? as Pinko, a marine and Hungarian immigrant.
  • Scott MacDonald as D.I. Fitch
  • James Morrison as Old Mr. Swofford
  • Brian Mahoney as Priest


Critical response

The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics, registering a 61% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave the movie three-and-a-half out of four stars, crediting it for its unique portrayal of Gulf War Marines who battled boredom and a sense of isolation rather than enemy combatants. Entertainment Weekly magazine gave the film a "B+" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote: </ref>}}

In his review for the Washington Post, Stephen Hunter praised Jake Gyllenhaal's performance: "What's so good about the movie is Gyllenhaal's refusal to show off; he doesn't seem jealous of the camera's attention when it goes to others and is content, for long stretches, to serve simply as a prism through which other young men can be observed". Sight and Sound magazine's Leslie Felperin wrote, "If nothing else, Jarhead provides some kind of reportage of a war whose consequences we haven't yet begun to understand, a war now elbowed into history by its still-raging sequel". USA Today gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, "What we're left with is solid if not exceptional, though it's good to see Mendes expanding as a filmmaker". Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "But the best war movies"?and this one, despite its being overlong and repetitive, is among them"?hold that men fight (or in this case, are ready to fight) not for causes, but to survive and to help their comrades do the same".

However, in his review for The New York Times, A. O. Scott felt that the film was "full of intensity with almost no real visceral impact", and called it "a minor movie about a minor war, and a film that feels, at the moment, remarkably irrelevant". Kenneth Turan in his review for the Los Angeles Times wrote:

In his review for the Village Voice, J. Hoberman wrote, "A master of the monotone, Mendes prompts his performers to hit a note and sustain it. Although Jarhead is more visually accomplished and less empty than American Beauty or Road to Perdition, it still feels oppressively hermetic".

Nathaniel Fick, another author who is a Marine, gave the film a mixed review (and panned the book on which it is based) in Slate. He wrote, "Jarhead also presents wild scenes that probably could happen in combat units, but strips them of the context that might explain how they're more than sheer lunacy". James Meek, who reported from the battlefields of Iraq, reviewed the film in the pages of The Guardian. He wrote, "The key to a film about war is how it ends, and if the young man at the film's centre is lifted out of the battlefield uninjured and sane, if his family and home life before and after aren't prominent in the picture, the movie is diminished as a film which says something about war and becomes a simpler story of growing up, of jeopardy overcome".

Baghdad Express

In a New York Times article, it was noted that war veteran and writer Joel Turnipseed felt that parts of the film's plot had been taken from his 2002 book Baghdad Express: A Gulf War Memoir, without his consent. Jarhead screenwriter William Broyles Jr. claimed that many similarities arise from the retelling of common Marine experiences. Joel Turnipseed himself has been an occasional contributor to the New York Times.



  • San Diego Film Critics Society Special Award for Body of Work (Jake Gyllenhaal)


  • Art Directors Guild Excellence in Production Design Award for Contemporary Feature Film
  • Black Movie Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Satellite Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
  • Satellite Award for Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role, Drama
  • Satellite Award for Outstanding Film Editing
  • Satellite Award for Outstanding Screenplay, Adapted
  • Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture
  • Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor

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