Release Date: November 4, 2005 (US)
Director: Sam Mendes
Writters: William Broyles, Jr., Anthony Swofford
Jamie Foxx as: Staff Sgt. Sykes
Co-Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard
Runtime: 125 min
Genre: Drama, War
Rated: R for pervasive language, some violent images and strong sexual content
Production budget: $70 million (estimated)
Box office: $97 million
Links: Imdb – Official Site
Set during the Gulf War, the episodic tale follows Anthony Swofford (a.k.a. “Swoff”), a third-generation enlistee, from his sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, where he’s sporting a sniper’s rifle and a hundred-pound ruck sack on his back, while moving through Middle East deserts with no cover from the intolerable heat. As well, he advances with no protection from the Iraqi soldiers–and there’s always a potential enemy sighting, just over the next horizon. Swoff and his fellow Marines sustain themselves on humor and camaraderie as they tread the blazing desert fields in a country they don’t understand, against an enemy they can’t see, for a cause they don’t fully fathom.
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- The movie was based on former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling 2003 book.
- The movie was filmed on location in Los Angeles, El Centro (California) and Mexicali (Mexico).
- Filming lasted five months – which is the same length of time that the soldiers in the film spent in the desert.
- The actors all went on a four day boot camp at George Air Force Base.
- Some desert scenes were also shot on a Universal sound stage with lights doubling as burning oil wells. The lights were later replaced with burning wells courtesy of ILM.
- The burning oil wells were all computer generated. The oil that appears on the soldiers’ faces was a concoction made from molasses.
- Scenes filmed in the Imperial Valley had the mountains in the background digitally removed. Additional desert scenes were also filmed in Mexico.
- Staff Sgt. Sykes, played by Jamie Foxx, originally had a tattoo of a panther on the back of his shaved head. Foxx sported it during his award sweeps for Ray. The tattoo was eventually digitally removed in post-production by director Sam Mendes, because he felt it made the character too “hard core.”
I think it’s very appropriate that Jamie Foxx plays our staff sergeant. Everyone respects him as an actor. He keeps himself apart from the guys, quietly playing chess between scenes. We all play him, and he always wins. There’s a pecking order in the Marine Corps just like there is on a movie set. And it’s just so easy to look to Jamie as our leader. I instinctively and naturally look up to him.
– Jake Gyllenhaal on Jamie Foxx’s performance
Gyllenhaal is alert and physically very present in a good performance that centers the film, and Foxx is strong in his important secondary role.
Jamie Foxx plays Sgt. Sykes, the small unit’s lord and master. But he doesn’t play it like a lord and master — Foxx’s Sykes will surprise you.
– The Washington Post