Monday, May 27, 2013

Paths of Glory

In the trenches of WWI, a vain and callous general (George Macready) orders of suicidal open field which ends with the expected, disastrous results. To save face, he orders his lieutenants to offer up three soldiers to be tried for their lives in a military tribunal, where they are to be defended by one of their commanding officers (Kirk Douglas), who is sickened by the way his military is conducting itself. Paths of Glory is harrowing and impeccably made antiwar classic from Stanley Kubrick, who adapted Humphrey Cobb's novel. It features extraordinary visuals, most notably in the charge sequence, and a range of great performances from a powerful Douglas to the despicable generals Macready and Adolphe Menjou to the trio of prisoners played by Ralph Meeker, Joe Turkel, and the very affecting Timothy Carey. It's denouement comes as a swift kick to the teeth and is followed by a brilliant, anomalous sequence that still offers a glimmer of hope. With Paths of Glory, one of the first films where he had both creative control and a budget, not only is Kubrick's technical prowess evident, he made a powerful and lasting statement on courage and cowardice.