Paths of Glory Review
Paths of Glory is a 1957 war film directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas. It is one of the director’s best and most moving films.
It follows Coronel Dax who is the commanding officer of French soldiers who refuse to continue a suicidal attack and it is up to him to defend them in a court-martial. The story itself is quite simple here, but is really well realized. And I liked how it incorporated both action and drama rather well into a coherent whole. The first half has some superb action sequences that are so realistically depicted whereas the second half has some moving drama while also having courtroom drama elements as well.
I love that it is an anti-war film and that it so strongly opposes war and the army which is why it was not as well received when it originally came out back in 1957. But I loved its statements and although those can be a bit too on-the-nose, they are still powerful and the film is dramatic. But the most important thing about the film is how emotional it is. That ending with the soldiers listening to a German woman singing and tearing while singing is just spectacular not only in its evident and honest emotion, but also in its power as it is so well executed and such a perfect ending to such a good film.
The characters are really well developed with Dax being the finest one of course. He is a typical good guy, but his realistic behavior and his sense of humor distinguishes him from other similar roles. Broulard is such a realistic character, but General Mireau is the most interesting of the bunch with his amusing behavior and speech patterns and he is definitely the funniest character here.
Yes, the humor here is surprisingly good. It is one of the strongest aspects of Paths of Glory and that I was not expecting at all having in mind that this is a war film. But although subtle and not present in the first half, the humor is definitely there in the second half and it is stupendous with many hilarious lines that perfectly make fun of the army men of the time.
The acting is superb with Kirk Douglas giving one of his most memorable and definitely one of his best performances. But Adolphe Menjou is also good and George Macready overacts, but that is suitable in this kind of role. All of the actors did a fine job and they elevated the movie.
There are a couple of flaws in this movie including the overly short running time and its somewhat too simplistic and not that subtle approach. And every dialogue and every scene could have been a bit more dramatic and more impactful as only the ending is truly unforgettable here. It has its problems, but those are mostly minor and the film is overall very well crafted.
Paths of Glory is technically polished as well with terrific cinematography with some great camera movements. It is also rather well paced and of course Kubrick did such a phenomenal job as a director here and this is one of my favorites of his along with another war film ‘Full Metal Jacket‘ which is also his great achievement. The action here is so well depicted in its realism and that realism is present throughout the whole running time and I appreciated it a lot. But the conversations are also great and dramatic, the humor is fantastic and the performances are very good. The score is good and the tone is well handled. And the picture has one of the best endings of the fifties, there is no doubt about it.