Release Date(s)1987 (September 22, 2020)
Studio(s)Natant/Harrier Films/Warner Bros. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C-
[Editor’s Note: Parts of this film review are by Todd Doogan. The rest is by Bill Hunt.]
Full Metal Jacket is one director Stanley Kubrick’s most watchable films, successfully evoking that feeling of dread one gets at being caught up in a worthless endeavor. Not simply a meditation on the futility of war, it’s about the futility of doing anything you don’t believe in. It’s about humanity… and the loss of it. It’s about what happens sometimes when people are pushed too far. It’s about the act of dying and discovering what it means to see that up close.
The film follows a group of young U.S. Marines—Matthew Modine’s “Joker” in particular—from their first day of boot camp to combat in Vietnam. Modine is supported early by breakout performances from Vincent D’Onofrio, as a fellow recruit named “Gomer” who can’t quite cut it in training, and Lee Ermey, as their ramrod gunnery sergeant and drill instructor. Later on, it’s Arlis Howard and Adam Baldwin who shine as members of “Lusthog” squad, whom Joker—now a correspondent for Stars and Stripes—has been sent to cover through a series of brutal patrols during the Battle of Huế in 1968.
Full Metal Jacket was shot photochemically on 35 mm film using Arriflex cameras and Zeiss Super Speed and Nikon spherical lenses. It was finished on film at the 1.37:1 aspect ratio and has been exhibited at 1.66:1 (in European theaters), 1.85:1 (in U.S. theaters), and most recently 1.78:1 (on Blu-ray as well as this UHD presentation). Warner’s Ultra HD release presents the film in native 4K, newly scanned from the original camera negative by Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging. The film was digitally remastered and finished as a Digital Intermediate in a process supervised by Kubrick’s longtime assistant, Leon Vitali, with high dynamic range color grading in HDR10. The overall image quality is very good, though not quite as good as we’ve seen on some of the studio’s more recent Kubrick restorations. There is certainly a significant bump in fine detail and texturing here from the previous Blu-ray presentation, but some shots remain optically soft. The HDR grade is subtle, which is good in that it preserves the film’s original look while still adding depth and nuance to its palette—just don’t expect the colors to really pop, or highlights to gleam brightly, as they might on a modern film. Blacks are often deep, but sometimes more gray looking due to the extensive use of smoke, fog, and other atmospherics on set. Grain texturing is light-moderate and mostly organic looking, but there is at least one shot where it’s obvious that some digital manipulation has been done. Specifically, there’s a moment (almost exactly 70 minutes into the film) when one of the Marines is posing for a photo with the body of a VC combatant, where the grain in part of the frame—and part of it only—freezes. For the most part though, this is a very good remaster and certainly one that presents the film looking better than ever before.
Warner’s 4K disc includes lossless English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, which appears to be a new encode of essentially the same 5.1 found mix on the 2012 Blu-ray release. The front soundstage is medium-wide, with light use of the surround channels and firm low end. Dialogue is mostly clean and clear, but there’s a bit of light distortion that can be heard in the second part of the film (starting at about 48 minutes in). It continues through the following scene, as Joker’s news editor hands out coverage assignments. The film’s combat scenes deliver atmospheric surround use and a bit of light panning. Beyond that, the mix is solid and remains faithful to the film’s original audio experience. For those that prefer it, that original experience is preserved here in English 1.0 Dolby Digital mono (a nice inclusion for fans of the film). Optional audio is also available in French, German, Italian, Castilian Spanish, and Latin Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, as well as Polish Voiceover in 2.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitles include English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, German for the Hearing Impaired, French, Italian for the Deaf, Castilian Spanish, Dutch, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Latin Spanish, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, and Thai.
The 4K disc itself includes only one extra, carried over from the 2012 Blu-ray release:
- Audio Commentary with Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Ermey, and screenwriter/author Jack Cocks
Note that there are no subtitles for the commentary. The package also adds that 2012 Blu-ray Disc (it’s not mastered from the new 4K scan), which features the same commentary along with the following:
- Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil (SD – 30:49)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 1:28)
The commentary is as good as ever and the featurette remains interesting. Unfortunately, there’s nothing new here. It’s worth noting that the 2012 BD arrived in Blu-ray Book packaging that included a bonus DVD of the Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes documentary—that documentary is not included here. You do at least get a Digital Copy code on a paper insert, and there’s a second insert that offers you a chance to take a WB customer survey.
Full Metal Jacket isn’t the greatest Vietnam film, nor is it even the greatest Kubrick film. But it is a very good film, a savage—and occasionally funny—look at the absurdity of modern combat. This 4K catalog release offers a nice image upgrade over the previous Blu-ray, though it’s probably not the disc you’re likely to pull out first when showing off your Ultra HD display.
- Bill Hunt with Todd Doogan