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USA 1957
Directed by
Stanley Kubrick
86 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Paths Of Glory

WWI is infamous for its senseless waste of human life, not so much as a natural effect of war itself as the result of the class-bound arrogance of a military system which regarded foot soldiers as no more than cannon fodder, or as they are described here “scum”.  Paths Of Glory is thus not so much an anti-war film (although it is that too) as damning condemnation of the moral bankruptcy and sheer idiocy of that system.

Kirk Douglas plays Colonel Dax, head of a battalion of French soldiers ordered to attack an impregnable German position by Gen. Paul Mireau (George Macready) whose real motive is a promotion offered him by the crafty Gen. George Broulard. The mission fails and to wreak his revenge Mireau decides that three men will be tried for cowardice because in non-military terms, they refused to die pointlessly. Dax, a trained lawyer defends the men at their court martial but the trial is a sham and the men are found guilty and executed.

Kubrick tells the story with swift economy and an assured visual realization, helped by some striking cinematography by George Krause. Some of the minor performances are a shaky particularly the character of Pvt. Maurice Ferol played by Timothy Carey who had been in Kubrick's previous film, The Killing (1956), and who, understandably had a long career in B grade horror movies, however Kirk Douglas is typically strong as the career soldier caught between his sense of duty and his sense of humanity and George Macready magnificently reprehensible as his vain, hypocritical commander.

Although one misses the presence of a Breaker Morant style of courtroom stoush, the economy of the film is so effective in getting its message through that it actually feels shorter than its 86m run-time and in this sense, if none other, it is an exemplary piece of film-making.




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