One part parable about the US Army creating a new generation of Charles Whitmans and Lee Harvey Oswalds, one part Vietnam action set-piece. The parable is fine, but something felt amiss during the second act, something I couldn’t quite pin down. And then it struck me. This didn’t look like a Vietnam movie. Stanley Kubrick’s stab at the genre clearly hadn’t been filmed in South East Asia. Rather, it looked like it had been filmed on a damp industrial estate in Western Europe (Beckton Gas Works, as it turns out). Nobody expects the opulence of Apocalypse Now from every depiction of the war, but at the very least, every movie has to convince as to its environment. The shoot’s failure to do so inhibits any hope of viewer immersion. Furthermore, the way the script treats the soldiers is equally unconvincing; they behave like morons when faced with a crack-sniper. Not idiotic in a way that suggests the extreme mental pressure of their situation, but in a way that suggests flimsy writing.
At the top this pyramid is Kubrick. His slow pans, deliberate pacing and calculated direction are not a natural fit for action or war-filmmaking. It’s all too pristine, too careful. And I’m sure one day his relish of the psychologically twisted will stimulate an emotional response that goes beyond mere recognition of his method. Just not today.