Paths of Glory (1957)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Paths of Glory</strong> (1957)

(On Cable TV, July 2018) There are movies that are going to be seen no matter their subject matter, simply by dint of being part of someone’s filmography. You can watch Paths of Glory because it’s one of Kirk Douglas’ better roles as an officer stuck between loyalty to his men and duty to his superiors. Or because it’s one of Stanley Kubrick’s most humanistic movies, with great battle sequences and a powerful ending. Or you can watch it because it’s a terrific film, at once indignant about war and decent in its depiction of characters forced in impossible circumstances. Some sequences already showcase Kubrick’s film mastery: The lengthy uninterrupted shot through WW1 fortifications is a thing of beauty, and the editing of the film is top-notch even by contemporary standards. It has endured today not simply because of its pedigree or its exceptional performance, but perhaps because its perspective on war—as an incredible waste that makes monsters out of everyone including the most principled—stands sharply at odds from other war movies of the era. Blending it with a legal drama (even a pseudo-legal drama) adds more opportunities to explore its theme than a strictly combat-focused film would have. Comparisons with other war movies of the era are instructive. Well worth watching today, Paths of Glory is the film where the Kubrick magic starts happening and it still stands as one of the director’s strongest features.

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