Published on December 27th, 2007 | by Chris1
Paths of Glory (1957)
What an odd movie Paths of Gloryis! Only the fourth film from director Stanley Kubrick, this movie goes back and forth from tongue-in-cheek M*A*S*H-like anti-war movie, to out-and-out war movie, to legal drama at the blink of an eye. And it all falls together with Kirk Douglas as the star. Oh, and the entire thing is filmed in a 1930's style which only makes it more interesting, and even more of an enigma.....
Does that make it a bad movie? Hell, no. This is really a good movie, better than I was expecting, actually. Until it started I wasn't even aware of Kubrick's involvement, and it was interesting to see some early work from such a genius as Kubrick.
The film takes place entirely within the French ranks during the first world war. What you're looking at is a tale of how totally stupid concepts such as bravery and cowardice are on the battlefield. You've got an overzealous general who demands that the soldiers under him follow his orders, no matter how dim witted and suicidal they may be, and he wants to make an example for the men who fail to take a German emplacement dubbed "The Anthill."
Well, anyway, the three men really don't deserve to be tried as cowards and mutineers. Especially one who has run afoul of his Sergeant. The trial is an amazing spectacle, and farce of justice, as the men are convicted without a chance. Even though they have Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas) the greatest trial attorney in France before the war, and their division commander on their side. They've been set up, and are summarily executed.
Really the plot isn't so important as the depictions of those concepts of bravery and cowardice. What actually defines those? I would say that the three men facing their ultimate fate prove far braver than the general who would have had the entire unit shelled for not storming "The Anthill." But who am I to judge?
You've got to love vintage Kubrick moments such as General Mireau's pre-battle visit to the trenches, where he randomly stops several soldiers, "Are you ready to kill some Germans today?", that entire scene is just filmed brilliantly, following the general from one end of the trench to the other.
The entire sort-of-noir style that evokes films of an earlier era is quite interesting as well. Kubrick's experimental-ness shows through here, as from the opening credits you know Paths of Glory isn't supposed to look like your average 50's war movie.
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