100 Greatest Scenes Number 38: “Major Malfunction”

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Views from the Sofa’s 100 Greatest Scenes is a list of the 100 greatest moments in the movies. This could be long introductions, moments of action or great dialogue between characters. The scenes are in no particular order and come from many different types of movies.

Full Metal Jacket is a harrowing war movie that doesn’t shy away from showing the brutality of the Vietnam conflict. Ironically, the most memorable moments are before the soldiers get to the war-zone. The training by drill instructor Hartman, played by the incredible Lee Ermey, makes for some the more extreme scenes and culminates in one of the darkest but strangely satisfying moments of the whole movie.

Warning: Clip contains extremely violent scenes

Greatest Scene Number 38: Full Metal Jacket – “Major Malfunction.”

You couldn’t say it wasn’t coming. The whole first part of the movie seems to be focused on the degradation and bullying of Private Pyle, played by Vincent D’Onofrio. From the constant harassment by Hartman to the soap-in-a-sock assault by his fellow soldiers, it wouldn’t be long before he would snap and when he does it makes for compelling viewing.

The whole movie is seen through the eyes of Matthew Modine’s Private Joker so it is only fitting that he is the one to find the soldier in the bathroom, loading a gun with live bullets. From the moment that Modine enters the bathroom, you can see that Pyle has lost it. This is down to a great, intense performance by D’Onofrio.

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D’Onofrio is terrifying here

It is mostly done with the facial expressions rather than the words that Pyle says. The intense stare that D’Onofrio levels at Private Joker is enough to make anyone turn and run, especially if you add a loaded gun. Even with Private Joker’s attempts to reason with the man, D’Onofrio is gone and is going to take someone with him.

The way the character repeats the lines that have been “drilled” into him by his training just add to both the horror of the scene and highlight the intensity of the soldier’s experience. His eyes don’t lose focus as he twists and moves the gun through the drill motions. It is enough to wake the drill sergeant and bring him to the bathroom.

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Emrey’s Hartman doesn’t hold-back

This is when the scene reaches it’s shocking conclusion. Most people would be tempted to back down when faced with a crazed man holding a loaded rifle but Hartman isn’t fazed. As he has been throughout the first act of the movie, Lee Ermey barks his commands and then utters the now famous line “what is your major malfunction, numb-nuts?”

Like the rest of the movie, this scene doesn’t shy away from showing the horrific effects of the violence. After the shooting of Hartman comes the suicide of Pyle himself. This is done so slowly but meticulously that it is clear what is coming before the events unfold. Most movies would pan-up, showing the bloody aftermath but this scene presents the event in it’s full shock and violence.

Overall, as memorable and entertaining as the training aspects of Full Metal Jacket are, this scene manages to show the horror and effect of the tough and intense schedule. This is down to two performances, Ermey gives the last as drill instructor Hartman while D’Onfrio offers one of the scariest performances in a scene ever.

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Presented in all it’s stark realism
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