I've seen four Stanley Kubrick movies before. The only one I can say I liked was Dr. Strangelove. The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey were way to bizarre for me (especially the latter). And Eyes Wide Shut was just bad bad bad. But in spite of his mixed record I continue to give him a chance, holding out hope that I could still be pleasantly surprised and finally realize what everyone else sees in him. And even if I don't, at the very least I'll know what other people are talking about.
So, Full Metal Jacket. Very awesome first half, very average second half.
The first half deals with a bunch of US marine recruits undergoing their training under drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, who surely became the archetype for all sonofabitch drill instructors hence. This hour is quiet, haunting, captivating, and feels like a great movie. Years from now, this half is probably all I'll remember.
The second half has those marines serving in the Vietnam War, experiencing all sorts of horrors and adventures. This part feels like a different movie, and it stumbles from a lack of focus. It's a collection of scenes which, taken individually, seem right at home in a great movie. But collectively they go in all different directions with little coherence, little connection to the first half, and the climax brings up a new theme that comes out of nowhere.
I look forward to the movie that awakens me to the essence of why Stanley Kubrick is held in such high regard. The first half of Full Metal Jacket probably came closest to that goal, but a forgettable and uneven second half tarnishes its record. There may or may not be a movie out there that gets me to put Kubrick up on my mental pedestal, but this does not quite seem to be it.