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Warner salutes Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” with a new 4K restoration

Updated: Jun 26, 2021


(1) Retired Marine Drill Sgt. R. Lee Ermey plays the abusive and profane Gunnery Sgt. Hartman at the Marine Corps base in Parris Island, S.C. (2) The Marines are pinned down by a sniper in Huế, Vietnam.

(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1987; R war violence and language and sexuality; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Apple, FandangoNOW, Google Play, Movies Anywhere, Vudu, YouTube - 4K digital will load on platforms around September 22

Best extra: Carryover featurette “Between Good and Evil”

WARNER BROS. continues to do Kubrick right.

In 2018, the studio masterfully restored and presented Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) with its mind-blowing visuals of a spacecraft dancing in the starry void. New theatrical 70mm film prints were shown in select theaters for its 50th anniversary – which I witnessed – sourced from a new 8K master from the original 65mm negative. The 4K Ultra HD presentation was just as striking, and we selected “2001” as the No. 5 top 4K disc of the year.

Last year it was Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s masterwork, “The Shining” (1980) which also received Warner’s reference-quality 4K presentation. The original negative was used and Warner provided three HDR variations for your viewing pleasure: HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. Detail and texturing were impeccable, with perfect contrast throughout. It was selected No. 2 in our Top 10 4K Ultra HD watches of 2019.

Now, Warner is back again with a commanding 4K presentation of Kubrick’s terrifying and grim Vietnam War story “Full Metal Jacket.” For nearly two hours the story unfolds more like a “book of short stories than a novel,” film critic Roger Ebert said during the summer of 1987. He gave it two and a half stars and a “Thumbs Down,” while his TV broadcast partner Gene Siskel gave it a major "Thumbs UP!" calling it “very original and very close to being a masterpiece.” The debate between the late Chicago critics is classic. Check it out on YouTube (

1&2) New grunts Pvts. Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio), left, and Joker (Matthew Modine) get their basic training buzz cut. (3) Hartman continues to pile on the abuse. (4) Training runs from early morning to late afternoon.

“The training sequences are absolutely startling even though this is familiar material. And that picture he got of that guy [Pvt. Pyle, played by Vincent D’Onofrio] is explosive and I’ll never forget it.” – Movie critic Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

New U.S. Marine grunts have just arrived at Perris Island, S.C., getting their heads shaved, as they enter Gunnery Sgt. Hartman’s abusive and profane world of basic training. Retired Marine Drill Sgt. R. Lee Ermey, who served 15 months in Vietnam, provides the emotional performance. Originally he was hired as a technical advisor to train the actors into a platoon. But, when he put on the drill instructor’s uniform, “In a way, he fell back in his role. He was a very nice man. And when he wore the uniform he was a devil,” says executive producer Jan Harlan. “He seemed to have an endless resource on obscenities.Kubrick soon realized that he was perfect for the role.

The encounters between Hartman and his men – especially the overweight misfit, nicknamed Gomer Pyle is tough to watch. The second half of “Full Metal Jacket” takes us to a strange urban landscape for a Vietnam War film – completely filmed in England on sets and stages – with burning buildings and a Viet Cong sniper picking off Marines one by one.

“Full Metal Jacket” received one Oscar nomination for its screenplay written by Kubrick, Michael Herr, who provided much of Martin Sheen’s dialogue for “Apocalypse Now,” and Gustav Hasford, whose novel “The Short-Timers” (1979) was the bases for the film. The production topped $30 million, while its box office was just over $46 million.

(1) Hartman drills Pyle on the difference between his left and right shoulder. (2) Many nights the young Marines sleep with their rifle and recite a poem. “This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.” (3&4) Physical training is crucial in getting the Marines ready for combat. (5) Hartman finds Pyle's footlocker is unlocked -- a violation of regulations. (6) Weeks of mental and physical abuse take their toll on Pyle.



During the 30-minute carryover featurette “Between Good and Evil,” you’ll discover many of the backstories to Kubrick’s war epic, including how Vincent D’Onofrio was working as a bouncer at the Hard Rock Café when stage actor friend Matthew Modine and his wife walked into the restaurant and mentioned he was preparing for a Kubrick film. D’Onofrio had only worked on stage and didn’t see himself as a Hollywood actor. “Stanley made my career. There was no question to that,” says D’Onofrio. Decades later he’s acted in dozens of dozens of films, “because Stanley cast me.” He also says that he still knows how to take apart an M16 rifle and reassemble it blindfolded.

D’Onofrio gained 30 pounds for the role of Pvt. Pyle, but Kubrick wanted the 6-4 actor to put on more. He added 50 more pounds. Former Warner Bros. executive John Calley said, “He [Kubrick] was fascinated with the transmutation of young men into killers.” Sgt. Hartman wanted his men to treat their rifles like a sexual partner – sleeping with it. The sergeant gives a shocking speech about two previous great marine marksmen and both became assassins: Charles Whitman, the "Texas Tower Sniper" who killed 16 on the University of Texas campus in 1966, and JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

Actor Kevyn Major Howard who plays Rafterman, a Marine photographer, recalls how Kubrick put the message out that he was willing to look at anybody’s audition tapes. “So you had every actor in the world making these tapes.” Author David Hughes, a Kubrick biographer tells how Modine got the job to play Pvt. Joker. At the time Modine had the lead role in Alan Parker’s post-Vietnam story “Birdy.” Parker sent Kubrick some tape clips of Modine, “being the most Birdy that he could be,” said Hughes. Kubrick wasn’t interested and nearly dismissed the tape. But near the end, “where you just saw Modine not speaking, not acting, but just kind of being,” is what got him the role, said Hughes. Howard says Modine reminded him of legendary actor Jimmy Stewart. “He’s a very easy-going actor… and electrifying on-screen.”

The battlefield sequences were filmed in London because Kubrick didn't like to fly. “It seemed to be a preposterous idea to make a Vietnam movie in East London,” says Hughes. But, Kubrick didn’t like to do anything more than 10 miles from his home. The last time he flew on an airplane was for the premiere of “2001” in New York. The majority of the urban combat was filmed at an abandoned gasworks facility that hadn’t been used since after World War I. It was scheduled to be destroyed and had similar French architecture to the Vietnam city of Huế. A number of palm trees were flown to give it that Southeast Asia vibe.

Like all Kubrick films, the production seemed to last an eternity. Everyone’s contract originally stated 18 weeks. “I believe it was about 17 months. It was four months longer than a tour of duty,” says Howard. On average every shot took at least 30 takes, says actor Dorian Harewood, who plays Eightball.

Both the 4K disc and Blu-ray include a commentary with critic/screenwriter Jay Cocks, and actors O’Onofrio, Ermey, and Adam Baldwin.

(1) Now a sergeant, Joker is a correspondent for the Stars and Stripes military news service. Kevyn Major Howard plays Rafterman, a combat photographer. (2) Joker tells his superior about a rumor that a large-scale attack may be launched during the Tet holiday. (3&4) The two journalists are helicoptered to a village near Hue, where dozens of civilians are killed.



Warner decided to strike a new 4K scan from the original camera negative (1.78:1 aspect ratio, falls between the European 1.66:1 and U.S. 1.85:1 theatrical ratio) for this fabulous restoration. The project was supervised by Warner’s top-notch mastering gurus and Kubrick’s personal assistant Leon Vitali. Natural film grain is much more pronounced with a much higher level of clarity than previous editions. From close-ups to wide shots you’ll notice the difference – especially with setups 60-inches and larger. Make sure your primo seat is close enough to see the added resolution. The ideal viewing distance from a 4K screen is between 1 to 1.5 times the diagonal width. A 60-inch - 5 feet to 7.5 feet, while an 80-inch - 6.6 feet to 10 feet.

The HDR toning is standard HDR10, which still provides an excellent level of deep and dark shadows without losing detail – especially during the final battle sequence. The highlights are just as striking with the bright orange fires, and the facial toning of the multi-ethnic cast is lifelike without any color shift. Overall the image is slightly darker with millions of more pixels and a wider color spectrum without oversaturated frames.


The original mono track is available for the traditionalist, but I’m drawn to the expansive six-channel DTS-HD soundtrack with plenty of deep bass response during war footage, and the dialogue is never lost. A number of 1960s pop tunes are included, among them “Hello Vietnam” with Johnny Wright, “Chapel of Love” with Dixie Cups, “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” with Nancy Sinatra, and “Surfin’ Bird” with The Trashmen. Kubrick’s daughter Vivian composed the score.

For Kubrick fans, this is a must as Warner continues its 4K salute to one of its most treasured filmmakers.

Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer

(1) Basic training buddies Joker and Cowboy (Arliss Howard) reunite at Phu Bai, just south of Huế. (2) Cowboy's platoon includes Animal Mother (Adam Baldwin) and Eightball (Dorian Harewood). (3) Joker and the platoon head toward Huế. (4) Sgt. Cowboy hits the deck during an artillery attack, which his superior Lt. Walter J. Schinowsky, aka "Touchdown" (Ed O'Ross) is killed. (5) A network TV crew captures the platoon.


(1) Cowboy is shot by the Viet Cong sniper. (2-5) Highlighted by the HDR toning, fire paints the action with an intense orange glow as the Marines hunt down the sniper.




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