Saw it for the first time in ages yesterday. It completely stands up and, with Apocalypse Now, is the only Vietnam movie which still has something to say with regards to today's wars/world.
Not so much a film about the effects of war on the individual as the effects of state-supported brainwashing on the young and the crazy brave. Works more as a series of 'skits', if you like, rather than a cohesive narrative piece, but the key to the entire film lays in these individual scenes.
Sgt Hartman is a true screen monster, up there with Kurtz and Killgore, Pvt Joker is the closest we get to a likeable character...but isn't this the whole point? That there are no "characters" in an organization run along fascistic lines? Like the man says: "You are not even human-fucking-beings..." and reminds them that even if they survive training, "You will be a weapon, a minister of death, praying for war" - their humanity fundamentally rendered null and void by virtue of the fact that their job involves killing; lots and lots of killing.
Easily Mr Kubrick's most underrated film. The themes are there if you look hard enough...the issue of fascist protection of democracies, for one...where's the line between necessary violence and outright murder in a warzone...plus, of course, the idea of raising snakes and expecting not to get bitten (Pile, the helicopter machine gunner, the dude with the big gun who has a mock-feud with Pvt Joker).
Also has the usual hypnotic "Kubrick-isms", such as the opening sequence showing the recruit's heads being methodically shaved, the slow tracking shot leading Hartman around the boot camp as he delivers his opening monologue, and the darkly comic absurdities you expect from his work, such as a platoon of marines singing the "Mickey Mouse song" moments after killing a Vietnamese child.