Paths of Glory
Action / Drama / War
Paths of Glory
Action / Drama / War
The futility and irony of the war in the trenches in WWI is shown as a unit commander in the French army must deal with the mutiny of his men and a glory-seeking general after part of his force falls back under fire in an impossible attack.
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Stands the Test of Time
An arrogant French general (a superb George Macready) orders his men on a suicide mission and then has the gall to try to court marshal and execute three of them for cowardice in the face of the enemy. A former lawyer turned colonel (Kirk Douglas in his prime) is the voice of reason against gross injustice. This excellently staged and wonderfully acted production is as much an acting showcase for Douglas as it is a directorial masterstroke by a young Stanley Kubrick who adapted this to the screen from a novel based on actual accounts.
Kubrick displays a great control of sound effects and camera movement in the brief but effective battle scenes that expertly depict the controlled chaos that was trench warfare during WWI. Things get juicier during the ensuing courtroom battle where the deafening disparity between the elite who propagate and profit from war and the common citizens who suffer and die in war is shown with great lucidity.
Unlike later Kubrick epics, this runs at a crisp 90 minutes, though suffers briefly from a slow and awkwardly staged opening ten minutes before Douglas comes on screen. Ultimately, this holds up very well to modern scrutiny thanks to the flawlessness of Kurbick's craft, the amazing ensemble acting, and the surprising depth of its philosophical and psychological pondering. "Paths of Glory" is more anti-arrogance than anti-war, and is unapologetically sentimental and pro-soldier. As such, much can still be gleaned from its message.
Riveting and well-acted
If you liked All Quiet on the Western Front, you'll love Paths of Glory. Told in the same anti-war tone, Stanley Kubrick's film conveys a stark, bleak atmosphere in his black-and-white footage, Georg Krause's stoic cinematography, and Malcom Arnold's minimalistic score. It follows the planning and potential execution of a suicide mission in World War One. If you can use your suspension of disbelief and accept the fact that no one in the movie has a French accent, you'll be in for a very riveting, well-acted film.
Adolphe Menjou and George Macready are big-wigs in the French army, and they plan out a mission for their boys in the trenches that has virtually no likelihood of success. Both men are hard-hearted and treat men in uniform like chess pawns. Emotional and physical wounds are often ignored, but when Kirk Douglas hears of the plan, he doesn't want to go through with it. He actually cares about his soldiers and doesn't want to order them to their death.
Keep in mind that this is a war drama, so don't pop this in if you're in the mood for a light afternoon flick. This movie will absolutely get you riled up, and if you're already anti-war, it might become one of your favorites. It had the misfortune to be released the same year as The Bridge on the River Kwai, which swept the Oscars in 1958 and took space in audiences' memories in the years to come. You've probably heard of Paths of Glory, but unless you're a film buff or student, you might not have seen it. If you're up for a very heavy, depressing movie, it's absolutely worth watching.
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Needlessly sacrificing other's for one's own glory
Stanley Kubrick's potent anti-war classic comes down super hard on the intrinsic cruelty and unfairness of the bleakly efficient military machine in which the arrogant top brass are more concerned about enhancing their lofty statuses and saving face with the public than they care about the grim plight of the hapless common foot soldiers who are sent to certain deaths by being forced to carry out mpossible missions for the sake of said top brass's own overinflated egos and self-advancement within the ranks: One can't help but feel infuriated when the ruthlessly ambitious General Paul Mireau (a marvelously haughty portrayal by George Macready) orders his own men to be shot when they fail to follow through with taking a heavily fortified area. Indeed, Kubrick astutely captures not only the brutality of war, but also the frequent absurdity and futility of same in both the harrowing combat scenes and at the shattering climax in which three innocent men are executed just so those in charge can prevent themselves from feeling disgraced.
Kirk Douglas contributes a wonderfully impassioned performance as the idealistic Colonel Dax, who makes a game, albeit fruitless attempt to defend several men under his command when they are brought up on charges of cowardice. Moreover, there are strong contributions from Ralph Meeker as the sarcastic Corporal Philippe Paris, Adolphe Menjou as the smug and calculating General George Broulard, Wayne Morris as craven drunk Lt. Roget, Richard Anderson as hard-nosed prosecutor Major Saint-Auban, Joe Turkel as the noble Private Pierre Arnaud, and Timothy Carey as sniveling undesirable Private Maurice Ferol. Kudos are also in order for Gerald Fried's rousing score and Georg Krause's beautifully fluid black and white cinematography. Essential viewing.