“Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
For those who know a little history, you would know who General George S. Patton is. You would know that he is served in World War Two as one of the top American generals on the European battlefront. He was a very smart man, but also an eccentric man. His eccentric manners is what took him away from taking part of D-Day. But there is no denying the influence he had on the war. Without his leadership, who knows how the war would have turned out. In 1970, a movie about his life came out and it was well-received by nearly everyone who has seen it. The movie was worked on by close associates of Patton, such as General Omar Bradley. An interesting fact is the producers of the film contacted the Patton family for information…..only a day after Patton’s widow was laid to rest so it’s a sad matter-of-fact that the producers didn’t get any help from Patton’s family. I remember vividly looking forward to this movie, and luckily I can join the crowd of people who adored this film.
From the moment I see George C. Scott walking onstage as Patton to deliver his iconic speech in front of a sprawling American flag, I knew this was going to be a great movie. Every scene is captivating especially when Scott is in it, but the opening scene is the greatest, most powerful scene in the movie. The above quote I featured is part of the speech and immediately you can tell what kind of man Patton was. Patton was a man who took no crap from anybody and was a man who dearly loved his country. He spoke with such colorful language (although that idea was exaggerated in the film) and he had a way to make those words count. He was a man of perfection. You can see that during a scene where he slaps a soldier for being in a hospital for depression instead of battle injuries. That caused him a fall from grace, but you can see the man Patton was. The movie does an exemplary job in making Patton a lifelike character on the big screen.
This isn’t your typical birth-to-death biography. This is a biography that covers Patton during the wartime years. The movie makes a point in showing what a fine general he was and how he positively contributed to the war, but it did not hold back on showing him as an eccentric man. The scenes where he drags his very scared puppy around everywhere he goes is just one of those examples. The film begins with his conquests in Libya as he drives German general Rommel out of the country. Then we see a downfall of his due to his big mouth and incident where he slaps the soldier. Then we see a comeback as Patton commands the Allies on the European front mowing down Germans left and right as they move closer to Berlin.
The main actor in the film, of course, is George C. Scott who delivers a splendid performance as Patton. In fact, this may be the best performance of Scott’s long career and he had a wonderful career. The performance works on various levels. Scott is an onscreen presence to be reckoned with and he follows the oldest rule in the acting handbook-to become the character. I felt I was watching Patton the entire time, despite the mannerisms of Scott. But also you can draw parallels between the two men. Scott is seen as a recluse in Hollywood because he was so eccentric. He had the extreme talent, but his personality made him like an outcast. It was a foregone conclusion he was going to win the Oscar for Best Actor (and he did), but the question was if he was going to personally accept the award. He did not stating he did not like the Academy or acting competitions in general. Scott and Patton would have been great blood brothers. Casting Scott to play Patton is one of cinema’s greatest casting decisions ever. Scott delivered such a powerful performance. The other main performance was Karl Malden who delivers an admirable performance as General Omar Bradley, the man who gave Patton a second chance in the war.
Patton is a long film as it clocks in nearly three hours long and Scott is in nearly every frame, but it works very much thanks to Scott’s layered performance enhancing upon Patton’s theatricality. The guy who possesses such bravery also loves to hear himself speak during his long-winded speeches. The movie has many speeches, but they are worthy of your attention. The guy gives such a commanding presence and I got the goosebumps during that opening scene. The movie sees the war the way Patton saw it and it’s an exhilarating experience.
The direction is also a highlight of the film. Franklin J. Schaffner is known for taking on ambitious projects and this may have been his most ambitious project he may have ever tackled. It’s fun to see directors rise to the challenge and Schaffner took a mighty challenge here and won. Also a noticeable presence was the score by Jerry Goldsmith. He created such a patriotic score with the help of a pipe organ. Everytime I think of Patton himself, the main theme becomes stuck in my head and that is a good thing. 1970 was a good year for war films. M.A.S.H and now Patton are must-see war films from that year. The former film was a spoof on the dangers of war, but the latter is about a man who dedicated his life to winning the war his style. And his style is very interesting to watch. A man who won’t back down from anything. Because of George S. Patton, the Allies won the war.
My Grade: A