Full Metal Jacket – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

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Film Title: Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Release Date: 2020
Rating: R
Runtime: 116 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Studio: Warner
Audio Formats: DTS-HD MA 5.1 / Dolby Digital Mono
High Dynamic Range: HDR10
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Release Date: 9/22/20
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Matthew ModineR. Lee ErmeyVincent D’Onofrio, Adam Baldwin, Dorian Harewood, Kevyn Major Howard, Arliss Howard, Kieron Jecchinis, John Terry, Ed O’Ross, Jon Stafford

Jump to Sections:
Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full 4K Tech Specs found at the bottom

click to view a 4K Screenshot

The Movie

“Full Metal Jacket” was a 1987 film directed by Stanley Kubrick. The legendary Kubrick is best known for directing such classic films as “The Killing” (1956), “Spartacus” (1960), “Lolita” (1962), “Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964), “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), “Barry Lyndon” (1975), and “The Shining” (1980). The film was based on the novel “The Short-Timers” written by Gustav Hasford. Hasford, along with the help of Kubrick and Michael Herr, would work on co-writing the screenplay adaptation of the novel.

The story here is told by our protagonist, known as “Joker” (Matthew Modine), who happens to be a new Marine going through boot camp during the Vietnam period. He’s joined by lots of other young men from all over the United States, feeling like a fish out of water but using his jokes to break the ice so-to-speak, even with his drill Sergeant. Hell, that’s how the man gets the nickname of Joker and that is what we come to know him as. The drill Sergeant here, “Gunny Sgt. Hartman” (R L. Ermey) is one of the most unforgiving, in your face, confrontational individuals you could ever imagine encountering. Plus, he not only can put your ass on the ground physically, but he can also put your ass down with insults that, as offensive, as they may be by today’s standards, still can make almost anyone with a pulse laugh.

Joining Joker in boot camp is a group of men also having a bit of trouble getting used to things and some are just downright having zero luck at adjusting. One of those having the hardest time adjusting to things at boot camp here is a guy a bit out of shape that the drill Sergeant awards the nickname of “Pvt. Pyle” (Vincent D’Onofrio). For those who don’t get that, it’s a reference to a TV show called “Gomer Pyle: USMC” that featured said character. Pyle was not exactly a Marine that was looked up to by the corps. You, the viewer, Joker, and the other guys in the boot camp witness as Pyle is totally made a complete fool of by the Gunny Sgt. Hartman, especially on the obstacle courses.

The other guys in boot camp with Joker and Pvt. Pyle here include: “Pvt. Cowboy” (Arliss Howard) and “Snowball” (Peter Edmund). Later on, after boot camp, Joker will serve during Vietnam and despite working as a journalist will see his share of some action. Joining him in Da Nang you have some interesting characters like his boss “Lt. Lockhart” (John Terry), his cameraman “Rafterman” (Kevyn Major Howard), as well as some other troops like “Animal Mother” (Adam Baldwin), “Eightball” (Dorian Harewood), “Lt. Touchdown” (Ed O’Ross), “Crazy Earl” (Kieron Jecchinis), “Doc Jay” (Jon Stafford),  and“T.H.E. Rock” (Sal Lopez).

Over the course of this film, you’ll see how that war is hell just as the phrase goes and what it can do in terms of desensitizing the soldiers along the way. Private Joker, as a character here, manages to be a bit of a walking contradiction, or perhaps just a man a bit confused by war. He’s best known for in the latter half of the film for wearing a peace sign button on his uniform and having “Born to Kill” written on his helmet. Even one of his superior officers questions this choice later in the film, as well as gives him an earful for doing so. This film shows you a glimpse at what boot camp for Marines is like, first, and then what Vietnam was like for someone just serving as a journalist.

Undeniably, even though he’s only in the first half of the film, most people come to remember the late great R. Lee Ermey here in the unforgettable role as “Gunny Sgt. Hartman” but it’s worth noting that he also served as the technical military advisor on the film. In fact, Ermey wasn’t even originally set to play the role until Kubrick saw how amazing he was in-person training the cast and crew members. This man brought such authenticity to the film, that stands out, and holds true to this very day.

Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)

click to view a 4K Screenshot

Video Quality

“Full Metal Jacket” arrives on the 4K UHD Blu-ray format from a 4K restoration. The movie is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio with the HDR10 form of High Dynamic Range. It is worth noting that the film was originally intended for a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but still comes to 4K (just as it did on Blu-ray) in the 1.78:1 aspect filling an entire 16×9 widescreen display.

First off, let me get technical, for a bit, in regards to the 4K disc itself here. This is using a BD-66 (66 gigabytes) disc, 60.17 gigabytes total, and 58.7 gigabytes for the film itself. According to IMDb, this movie has received a (new 2020) 4K DI (digital intermediate) and was shot on 35MM film using Arriflex 35 BL, Arriflex 35 IIC, and Fries Mitchell 35R3 cameras with spherical lenses.

Warner originally issued this statement regarding the 4K restoration, in the press release:

“The 4K remastering was done using a new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging. Stanley Kubrick’s former personal assistant Leon Vitali worked closely with the team at Warner Bros. during the master process.”

That’s some excellent news, knowing that the folks at Warner‘s MPI (Motion Picture Imaging) labs worked on this restoration. They [MPI] have been responsible for such impressive restorations and 4K UHD Blu-ray releases as “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “The Shining”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and “Blade Runner” to just name a few. Two of those happen to be Kubrick films too, so let’s just say that they have an impressive track record (so far) for doing his work complete justice.

Now, let’s take some time to look back on the 2007 Blu-ray Disc release of the film in comparison with this new 2020 4K UHD Blu-ray release. I’ll be showing you those comparisons in two ways, once again, in this review. First, with the traditional image comparisons (below) and then via a 4K (2160p) slideshow video I’ve made and put on the site’s YouTube Channel (further below).

Blu-ray VS. 4K Screenshots Comparison:
SOURCES: 2007 Blu-ray (left), 2020 4K UHD Blu-ray (right)

As you can tell from the comparisons above, still images or the slideshow, there’s a very tasty amount of film grain now visible that has been preserved, some scenes received a bit more color changes than others (namely the last still image further above). The amount of newfound detail here is just astounding, in every single scene throughout the film. The black level is solid and seems so much deeper than ever before, and bright daytime scenes look just stunning. Everything in this 4K presentation just feels so much more accurate here with the addition of HDR10 form of high dynamic range. Back to the film grain, the reason you’ll see so much more of it here is that they’ve not only respectively left it but now with the high bitrates the 4K UHD Blu-ray format can run you’ll be able to see the fine grain come through so much more visibly.

I honestly was taken back at first by the 4K presentation and its amount of new detail here, and how it almost feels like an entirely new film. I think this looks stellar, and yes it has some rough scenes with a bit excessive film grain early on but that’s very much likely how Kubrick intended this to look. After all, his assistant did consult here on the remastering (restoration) of the film negative. Some may not agree with me on this but I find this to be a very, very impressive 4K video presentation and by far the absolute best that this film has ever looked. The folks at Warner’s Motion Picture Imaging have done an excellent job here on yet another one of Kubrick’s classics. This earns every bit of a perfect 5 rating for video quality.

Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)

click to view a 4K Screenshot

Audio Quality

“Full Metal Jacket” arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround as well as the Original Mono presented in a (lossy AC3) Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono sound mix. It’s worth noting that the 2007 Blu-ray release of the film only contained uncompressed LPCM (Linear PCM) and a (lossy AC3) Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix. So, this is the first time we’ve received the film in a lossless 5.1 surround mix, and it feels to have been remixed, meaning the mix has been redone, in my opinion. Now, that doesn’t mean the 5.1 lossless mix here is going to sound that enormously different than what you’ve previously heard. In fact, it could just be the same 5.1 we received in the LPCM and Dolby Digital formats on the previous release but just in a new DTS-HD MA codec encode.

The movie itself, at times, especially early on, has an undeniable amount of hiss present in the dialogue that just doesn’t seem to have been removed, if possible. It’s nothing at all bothersome, by no means, but it’s again, just some obvious occasional hiss in the center channel, where the dialogue is delivered. That being said, the dialogue is delivered spot-on from the center channel here and no volume adjustments are needed. The sound effects here prove to still manage to sound pretty impressive at times, making nice use of the rear channels for sounds like gunfire, tanks, helicopters, and whatnot. Those sound effects during some of the more action-packed moments of the film definitely will give your subwoofer its share of “action” so-to-speak and leave you feeling somewhat immersed.

Full Metal Jacket here on 4K UHD Blu-ray sounds good for the most part and it comes close to doing the film justice. Still, we have to keep in mind here that this film came from a Mono sound source. For a 1987 film that seems odd, considering that Stereo was around and films were being released in the format. However, that [Mono] is what Kubrick and his crew chose to record the film in. As a result of a 1-channel Mono source, they’ve essentially taken that track and broadened it out into a 5.1 configuration. This sound mix is definitely not what some had hoped for, but given its limitations of source material still delivers a somewhat impressive surround presentation. Lastly, the original Mono mix here is worth giving a listen to for the purists out there, but don’t expect it to have too much fidelity, considering it’s in a lossy AC3 codec. All and all, this earns a 4.25 rating for audio quality. There is definitely some room for improvement here on future releases, and perhaps fixing some issues — if even possible.

Audio Quality Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)

click to view a 4K Screenshot

Bonus Materials

Bonus materials physically on this release include:

The 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc includes the following bonus material:

  • Audio Commentary by Actors Adam Baldwin, R. Lee Ermey, and Vincent D’Onofrio, and Screenwriter/Author Jay Cocks

The 2007 Blu-ray Disc includes additional bonus materials, which are presented in SD video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. This includes:

  • Audio Commentary by Actors Adam Baldwin, R. Lee Ermey, and Vincent D’Onofrio, and Screenwriter/Author Jay Cocks
  • Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil” (30:49 – SD) is a 2007 retrospective documentary that was produced & directed by Gary Leva. This includes interviews with John Calley (former Warner Bros. executive), David Hughes (Author, “The Complete Kubrick”), R. Lee Ermey (“Gunny. Sgt. Hartman”), John Baxter (Author, “Stanley Kubrick: A Biography”), Adam Baldwin (Animal Mother), Kevyn Major Howard (Rafterman), Vincent D’Onofrio (Pvt. Pyle), Jan Harlan (executive producer), Nigel Phelps (assistant art director), Dorian Harewood (“Eightball”), John Ward (Steadicam operator), Ernest Dickerson (cinematographer, “Do The Right Thing”), Jay Cocks (screenwriter, “Gangs of New York”), and Peter Hyams (director, “2010”).
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:28 – SD) is sadly presented in 4×3 and only in standard definition.

Overall, the bonus materials here are just the original 2007 Blu-ray extras (on that disc) as well as the audio commentary also on the 4K disc. I have to reward them for putting the audio commentary on the 4K disc, as that really proves to be useful. The fact there aren’t any new bonus materials here does not surprise me one bit, and I hate that but I have to accept it. It’s nice to see we have a digital copy of the film included (in 4K) as well. That makes for a pretty decent set of extras for me. The audio commentary is definitely worth giving a listen, if you’ve never taken the time to do so, now that you can while watching the film in 4K. 

Bonus Materials Rating: 2.25 (out of 5)

click to view a 4K Screenshot

Closing Thoughts

“Full Metal Jacket” was probably one of the most memorable Vietnam films out there, and is one of Stanley Kubrick‘s cinematic masterpieces. The performances in this film given by Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Baldwin, and the late R. Lee Ermey are just excellent and you cannot imagine a world where anyone else played these parts. These are iconic performances from all of those actors, as well as every single person that served as a member of the cast. This film captured something that seems to truly authentic and at the same time comes with its own dark comedic sense.

In its 4K UHD Blu-ray debut, Full Metal Jacket comes to us from a new 4K restoration and it looks downright marvelous, especially when looking back at the 2007 Blu-ray as a comparison (as I did above). There’s an absolute abundance of newfound detail here in every single shot. The color timing has been slightly changed up just a bit and makes for more accurate flesh tones and even more accurate colors on the uniforms. The black level is perfectly solid here, and that’s many thanks to the addition of HDR10 form of high dynamic range. The amount of film grain is a bit excessive in a few scenes and feels gritty, in a very, very good way. I have to say that I love the fact that film grain has been preserved here and comes through beautifully in the 4K presentation. This is definitely reference material and the best you’ve ever seen this 1987 Stanley Kubrick film look. This earns every bit of a perfect 5 rating for video quality.

Now, in terms of the audio quality on the 4K release. You’ll get a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround mix, and not perhaps the Atmos you expected? Sometimes films just don’t need to be put in Atmos, in my opinion, when the film’s director is no longer around to decide or if they don’t approve of it being remixed. This happens to be one of those cases and the film works fine in a 5.1 configuration here, this time around in a lossless format for once, versus the uncompressed LPCM 5.1 sound mix found on the 2007 Blu-ray. Does it sound any better? Not really, but it still proves to be a somewhat impressive surround mix although does have a few limitations and flaws. Keep in mind that this film came from a Mono sound source, as hard as that is to believe for a 1987 film.

Lastly, in terms of extras, you don’t get anything at all new here. You only get the 2007 Blu-ray Disc included which has the audio commentary, a 30-minute 2007 retrospective documentary, and the film’s theatrical trailer. Then, on the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc itself, you’ll actually find the audio commentary conveniently there — unlike on so many 4K releases out there. And, you get a digital copy of the film this time around which is also in 4K, so that’s a somewhat decent set of bonus materials. In terms of the 4K release itself, this proves to be the definition of a highly recommended upgrade well-worth making the purchase of.

In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.25 (out of 5) for audio quality
2.25 (out of 5) for bonus materials

Overall Verdict:
Highly Recommended Upgrade

Available As:

2020 4K UHD Blu-ray Release

4K UHD Blu-ray Screenshots:

Blu-ray VS. 4K Screenshots Comparison


4K UHD Blu-ray Technical Specifications:

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Exact Runtime(s): 1:56:33
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (with a DTS 5.1 core), Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Thai
Disc Size: BD-66
Disc Use: 60.17GB total / 58.7GB for the film