PATHS OF GLORY
Review by Michael Jacobson
Douglas, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 87 Minutes
Release Date: June 29, 1999
I can sum it up very easily: Were you blown away by Saving
Private Ryan? Then you need to
see Stanley Kubrick's wartime masterpiece, Paths
As much as I loved Ryan,
I still consider this to be the greatest and most emotionally powerful war
story ever filmed. The battle
scenes are some of the most gut wrenchingly realistic you'll ever see.
They're loud, powerful, and filled with the sickening and frightening
images of war. And the story behind
the battle peels back the covers on the ugliness of wartime politics as well.
It takes place in the middle of the first World War.
France and Germany have been fighting a grueling, unsuccessful battle in
the trenches for a couple of years. A
general (Macready) seeking advancement, orders a suicide mission for the 701st
regiment. They are to attack and
hold a strategic military position known as the anthill.
Colonel Dax (Douglas) knows that more than half of his men will die, and
the chance of success is slim to none, but he carries out orders and leads the
attack. When it fails miserably,
the general decides to make an example of his ‘cowardly' men by having three
men stand trial in a court martial, and then be executed by firing squad.
Dax defends his men, knowing full well that it's a matter
of the politics of war being prized over the lives of three soldiers, but it is
a losing battle. The deck is
stacked against him. The trial is a
loosely played out formality, the decision has already been made.
I don't want to say more about the plot, except that
Kubrick, in one of his greatest films, achieves a great emotional depth and
resonance within the horrors and insanity of war and the pencil-pushing generals
who run it. The film's masterful
climax is suspenseful and riveting, and rings with a true power most films never
The movie is solidly written and acted (particularly Douglas, in one of his greatest roles), but it is Kubrick's sense of direction and pacing that gives this film it's potency. It's easy for the audience to identify with the feeling of being pawns in the games of the powers that be, though I doubt many of our situations have been as extreme as this. This is not a movie to be missed.
NOTE: When Stanley Kubrick passed away
earlier this year, Steven Speilberg invited some friends over to dinner, and as
tribute to his mentor and friend, he played the final scene from this movie.
For the most part, this is a stellar black and white transfer. It is sharp, clean, and crisp, with great clarity of image throughout. Only in a few places are some scars and cuts noticeable on the source material, but it's hardly distracting.
The soundtrack is in original mono, but is quite dynamic
and powerful just the same, and immerses you in the middle of the action much
more than you might expect from mono. All
in all, a good example of how a classic film should be preserved on DVD.
Only a trailer, and a 4 page booklet for those who consider
that a ‘feature'.
Paths of Glory is, in my opinion, the greatest war film ever made. Powerful, emotional, and boldly unflinching, it towers above all other entries in the genre with a strong storyline and amazing clarity of vision. It is safe to assume there would have never been a Saving Private Ryan without this movie as a predecessor. This is a must own DVD.