Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Patton; war drama, USA, 1970; D: Franklin J. Schaffner, S: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates, Karl Michael Vogler, Stephen Young, Michael Strong, Carey Loftin
World War II. General George S. Patton is sent to help American soldiers on Tunisia's territory, where they just suffered a defeat from the Nazis. Together with his friend, General Omar Bradley, he disciplines the soldiers and wins against Field Marshal Rommel. He then disobeys his superiors and races with British General Montgomery to capture Sicily and defeat the Fascists. Patton comes to Messina first. When he slaps a soldier, he is forced to publicly apologize and is left out of participation in the Invasion of Normandy, serving only as a decoy. Tired of not doing anything, he is hired by Bradley to command the US Third Army, which he uses to conquer Bastogne and cross into German territory. After the war is over, he is bored with his life.
You know a movie is going to be good when it starts off with a protagonist who delivers a cynical speech towards the crowd that starts off like this: "Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." James Berardinelli's favorite film, "Patton" is a strong and powerful film that is never pro or against war, but just objective in showing the last few years of life of the unusual General George S. Patton (excellent George C. Scott) - everything is just shown from his perspective, hence this is one of those rare films that build their entire story only on the bizarre charisma of the main protagonist, no more, no less. It's hard to say if Patton was mystified or realistically portrayed since a large part of his life is left out, but in the film he is shown as a born warrior and battle strategist, a person obsessed with war, yet a lot of his cynical observations also seem like an irony of that state - for instance, when he arrives at a military base in North Africa, he immediately decides to start motivating the relaxed soldiers: "In 15 minutes we are going to start making fanatics out of these men!" He also hated Russians, spoke negatively of the Democrats and Republicas whereas when he got a delayed order from General Alexander that he shouldn't go into the town of Palermo, after he already conquered it, Patton said to the messenger: "Ask him if he wants me to give it back!" Scott's style of acting a sleazy 'know-it-all' larger than life protagonist has been copied thousands of times in numerous movies. Even though it's slightly tedious at times and not as intense as many say it is, "Patton" is still an excellent example of 'New Hollywood' - many movies from the 50s can be immediately recognized, namely that they come from the 50s, but "Patton" is so modern it could easily pass as if it was made today.