KUBRICK'S GENUINE CLASSIC MASTERPIECE5/10
What to say that hasn't already been said. This astonishing cinematic work of art (no kidding) unquestionably is the GREATEST FILM EVER - bar none. I deeply and passionately LOVE this brilliant early Kubrick production. Congratulations to expert screenwriters (and unique pulp writers of the 5O's) Calder Willingham (who also penned his own excellent adaptation of "The Strange One"; highly recommended) and Jim Thompson ("The Grifters" "The Killer Inside Me"; which strongly influenced Tarantino), who both present a superbly incisive script with powerfully effective dialogue that really rings more than true. If only we had more real writers and scripts like this remarkable achievement, we'd be writing far more favorable reviews. "Paths of Glory", alone, would serve as anyone's lifetime achievement award.
I don't care how much you HATE B&W films - put this one on your MUST-SEE. Compelling cinema-verite photography creates astounding visuals from a varity of incisive angles; like the famous mobile wide-angle tracking shot of Dax (probably Kirk Douglas's most stirring and important performance) moving through the squalid and horrifying trenches as the battle begins with explosions breaking out all over. The suspense and tension is frightening, but almost beautifully eerie in the most compelling ways as Kubrick takes us through the deadly limbo of no-man's land - the 'paths of glory' which finally leads to the grave. The action, skillfully combined with powerful moral and existential themes are amazingly conveyed through the bleak yet articulately stunning visuals. THIS IS A FILMMAKER'S FILM!
The moral outrage of the sadistic injustice of the military courtmartial never fails to make my blood fully boil. The hypocrisy and corruption is degradingly infuriating. If anything will make a cynic out of you, it's this appropriately pessimistic and depressing cinema chronical based on a true stupid incident in WWI. What's even worse is how POG, in many perceptive ways, serves as an allegory for all the B.S. in real life: Pig-headed leadership in the parasitic hands of the superior greed freaks, two-faced deceptive manipulations, double-standards, backstabbings, social bigotry, arm-chair warriors, egotism, corrupt politics, the militaries's abuse of too much power - and it's destructive desire at satisfying it's lust for vainglory (sounds a little like Hollywood) - Did I leave anything out? You name it, POG has it - and I'm not being sarcastic.
The entire ensemble cast is superb with special mention to George Macready as the utterly pompous power-mad glory-seeking "soldier", General Mireuo (who thinks nothing about ordering his troops to open fire on his own men for not charging out of the trenches and dying for his "country"; which smells a bit like ME ME ME). Don't worry, you'll throughly hate his guts. It truly is true method acting. Again, kudos to Macready, a fine actor who was always too good at playing highly unethical villians. (Incidently, this was a favorite film of a young 195O's Marlon Brando and old salty Winston Churchill, who praised Kubrick's incisive authenticity in the exciting battle scene, which does resemble news footage).
Timothy Carey (also ultra-offbeat-cool in Kubrick's other exceptional early flick, "The Killing") is morbidly humorous and gut-wrenching as one of the poor fools coldly picked to be executed; all in the ruthless 'patriotic' name (and amoral game) of 'glory'. ARE ANY OF OUR LEADERS LISTENING? Too bad that Carey's memorable talents were so underused by Hollywood, but that always seems to be the unfortunate norm. A little like what ironically happens to him in this intriguing but downbeat story.
Ralph Meeker (who was also memorable as the brutal and ruthless Mike Hammer in the 5O's cult gem "Kiss Me Deadly" - a complete opposite role that shows a true range of his acting abilities) delivers another wretching performance as the true brave soldier unjustly sentenced for "Cowardice in the Face of the Enemy". (Maybe he should have turned 'about face', but it would have still been 'damned if he did and damned if he didn't' - another grim moral theme here). His breakdown scene right before he is to be taken out and shot is terribly heartbreaking, for I felt so wanting, but helplessly unable, to come to his help.
Take my word for it, everyone else is awesome; a true actor's dramatic show with dark satirical overtones. POG goes beyond the mere preaching anti-war diatribe (though it does convey that almost naturally, like going without having to say). It's a great classic morality play that will really make you stop (many, many times) and truly make you think (many many times). Airheads not allowed. Moreover, this haunting and disturbing masterpiece is top entertainment, something too many art films aren't. >
It will really make you question things about our troubled, convoluted world and how things are to often immorally and inhumanly run all in the sick name of greed and destructive power. Not too lovely, for the director pulls no punches. This film really has grown more profound (and currently pertinent) since its initial release. Also the editing is taut and concise; there isn't a single wasted moment. Count the number of films on one hand that has accomplished that miraculous feat; that most critics and user commentators are always rightfully harking on. I'll shut up now. Go see this one-of-a-kind film, then see it again - and again, etc. >