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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably Douglas' best role ever!
I saw this film in a college course on film and I realize why. It is one of the best directed films ever made. The black and white works to perfection.
This is my favorite Kirk Douglas film about the French military during WWI. A group of French soldiers are sent on an impossible mission. When they obviously fail, the General afraid of losing face for a stupid...
Published on Feb. 19 2004 by Michael A. Newman

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Effective Propoganda
This film is clearly based on the 1917 mutiny of French troops during the Nivelle Offensives. What happened was that the French troops tired of advancing against well prepared German positions in badly thought out offensives spat the dummy and said no more. They would defend but not attack. The French general staff shelled their own troops to try to get them going...
Published on Jan. 19 2002 by Tom Munro


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Effective Propoganda, Jan. 19 2002
By 
Tom Munro "tomfrombrunswick" (Melbourne, Victoria Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Paths of Glory (Full Screen) (DVD)
This film is clearly based on the 1917 mutiny of French troops during the Nivelle Offensives. What happened was that the French troops tired of advancing against well prepared German positions in badly thought out offensives spat the dummy and said no more. They would defend but not attack. The French general staff shelled their own troops to try to get them going.
This film is reasonably simple in structure. A poorly planned attack is carried out and fails. The French generals want to execute some randomly chosen men to encourage the rest to be more enthusiastic next time. A trial is held which is of course simply a joke and the men are executed. Kirk Douglas plays an officer who leads the original attack and then defends the men in what is a Kangaroo court.
Kubrick's main problem as a director is the lack of complexity of his characters and the fact that he was a rather heavy handed director.
This story which is basically a simple anti war tract is one of his better films as there are really no characters. He is talking about an event. The portrait of the French generals is something of a crude charactature rather than being realistic. Still it was necessary to show his notion of the idiocy of war to attack them as being remote.
Kubrick's strong points are his photography and the construction of his scences. All of that is well done and it creates a series of powerful tableaus.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably Douglas' best role ever!, Feb. 19 2004
This review is from: Paths of Glory (Full Screen) (DVD)
I saw this film in a college course on film and I realize why. It is one of the best directed films ever made. The black and white works to perfection.
This is my favorite Kirk Douglas film about the French military during WWI. A group of French soldiers are sent on an impossible mission. When they obviously fail, the General afraid of losing face for a stupid decision, decides to court martial some of the soldiers as a punishment. Three soldiers are singled out. One obviously fought very bravely and another was hit on the head and knocked unconcious during the battle. Their stories are futile against the kangaroo French military court. Douglas tries valiently to act as their legal council and present their defense in vain.
From what I understand this film is still banned in France! I guess the humiliating loss during WWII did nothing to sway the French military from its self-conceived notion of being a great military power!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rare Moviemaking, Jan. 23 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Paths of Glory (Full Screen) (DVD)
Paths of Glory is one of those rare movies that leaves a mark on one's soul. It is a tale like Billy Budd which places the viewer in the achingly helpless state which decent people find themselves in when wanting to rescue the oppressed from those who mark them for destruction. In both stories evil triumphs, not because good men have done nothing, but because their efforts fall short. One identifies as much with the valiant Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglass) and Captain Vere (Peter Ustinov in Billy Budd) as they do with the poor unfortunates they desperately want to save. These are bittersweet tales that leave one yearning for the day when injustice and oppression will no longer triumph. They not only entertain the mind, but they impress the spirit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taught, tense, terrific., Feb. 1 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Paths of Glory (Full Screen) (DVD)
One of the great beauties of Paths of Glory is how no shot or word is wasted, how everything plays a part in the greater whole. The best art cuts away the inessential to leave you with a core that grips and provokes you, and that's cerainly true of this movie. Not only are the story and acting superb, but the perfectly taught pacing far outshines nearly every film I've seen, where bloat seems to be all too inevitable. Writers, directors, and editors everywhere could learn a lot from this film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sic transit gloria, Nov. 11 2003
By 
halda (World Wide Interweb Network Machine) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Paths of Glory (Full Screen) (DVD)
According to Roger Ebert, French New-Waver Francois Truffaut said it was hard to make an antiwar film because war was exciting even if you were against it. That's why "Paths of Glory" isn't an antiwar movie.
Yet, it IS a masterful work. Why? Kubrick has been criticized for not being an "actor's director", that he was more concerned with composition and lighting than performance. Here, we benefit from early Kubrick, (before he became STANLEY KUBRICK) when perhaps inexperience and youth permitted the actors to bring their own artistry to his film. Because this film is ultimately about the people, not the warfare.
Here Kubrick shows us what happens when people collide in such violent, chaotic and absurd circumstances, when one man's reach for glory becomes other men's destruction, when honor and duty fail to bring an iota of good to the world. Despite all of that, the characters remain very human, sins and all.
Warfare is not a "thing", it's a collection of individual actions, the sum of which almost always is bleak, painful and unjust, made all the more horrible when we remember that all glory is fleeting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars There is no such thing as shell shock, Oct. 4 2003
By 
Jason A. Miller (Brooklyn, New York USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Paths of Glory (Full Screen) (DVD)
Behind French lines in World War I, army generals are dissatisfied with their soldiers' lack of progress. The vain, scar-faced General Mireau (George Macready) is tempted with a promotion and taunted into ordering his men into a suicidal attack on a small German outpost, said to be of great significance to the war effort. Mireau in turn bullies his honorable lawyer-turned-corporal, Dax (Kirk Douglas) into carrying out the objective, even though the estimated casualties will be 65% of the regiment. Due to heavy German artillery, but more importantly, to poor communications behind their own lines, the objective is not taken. A furious Mireau wants 100 soldiers court-martialed, executed for cowardice. Dax bargains him down to three, and is confident that his criminal-defense prowess will save even those men. But what can he do, when the court-martial is a sham, without even a stenographer present?
Although dated from a technical standpoint, "Paths of Glory" is still a film of exceptional power. The final hour of the movie is staged like a play: characters conceived well before the ironic-small-talk revolution of the late 20th century speak to each other in weighty, dramatic soliloquies. But before that, there's a tightly-photographed, cacophonous fight sequence, masterfully set up by Kubrick and rivalling the authenticity of the opening reel of "Saving Private Ryan". Kubrick's film cameras prowl the trenches until you feel the claustrophobia.
The script doesn't have a single ounce of fat. Even though it's a war film set in the trenches, we don't see a single German combatant. Dax's regiment has more than just the German army to contend with, you see. The names are all significant: the first soldier killed in combat is named Lejeune, and the innocent corporal court-martialed to satisfy Mireau's bloodlust is named Paris. The objective for which the regiment must sustain 65% casualties is nothing less monumental than "the Ant Hill". And when the film's lone German finally appears, the French soldiers are, to a man, moved to tears.
87 minutes in length, "Paths of Glory" is half the size of "Pearl Harbor". There is something to be learned from that. Unfortunately, the DVD is just 25% the size of the "Pearl Harbor" box set. The only extra feature here is the original trailer. There is a "4-page booklet" accompanying the disc, but only two of those pages contain trivia. At least one of the facts in the booklet is clearly wrong, informing us that Wayne Morris's character is "killed early in the film". This is not so.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the finest anti-war films ever made., Aug. 28 2003
By 
Russell Fanelli (Longmeadow, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Paths of Glory (Full Screen) (DVD)
Kirk Douglas argued long and hard to get this film made. The studio felt it would not be profitable and it was not, but in retrospect, it turned out to be one of Douglas's finest performances and one of Stanley Kubrick's greatest achievements. This film was made almost fifty years ago, but time has not diminished its power and relevance. It is a classic!
Kirk Douglas plays the role of Colonel Dax, a French regimental commander in World War I who is given a suicide mission to attack a German position, "the Ant Hill." The attack is a failure and a fiasco, with many soldiers losing their lives senselessly. The attack had no chance of success. Even so, the high command orders that three men from the regiment be selected by their officers and tried for cowardice in the face of the enemy. Dax is to be the officer who defends them.
The trial is a sham and Dax, a brilliant lawyer, realizes that he has little chance of saving the lives of his men. Even so, he perseveres and demonstrates the absurdity of the trial and the criminal intent of the French high command. The men are condemned to death by firing squad. None of this will come as any surprise to the viewer, who early on realizes the stupidity, ineptness, and evil intentions of the high command.
For the high command war (and the lives of the ordinary soldiers who must participate in its ultimate absurdity) is a game and the business of the generals is to get good press and enhance their reputations. Colonel Dax stands for all good people of courage and conviction who speak out at risk to themselves against lies and criminal behavior. Unflinchingly, he confronts Adolph Menjou, the commanding general, listens to his nonsense, and condemns him for the misguided fool that he is. All to no avail. The order stands and the condemned men die on public display for the troops and general staff to witness.
If the movie ended with the executions, it would stand as one of the darkest portraits of fallen human nature yet filmed. But one final scene remains. Dax goes back to his headquarters after the executions and on the way he observes his men in a tavern shouting derisively at a young German woman who stands on stage as an object of ridicule and scorn. Then she starts to sing and her song transfixes and then transforms the men who begin to accompany her as she sings. Her song moves them to tears. Kubrick shows us that common soldiers are not animals whose lives are expendable, but human beings who are debased by war and uplifted by simple acts of human dignity and kindness. This final scene is one of the unforgettable moments in the history of cinema. Few viewers will ever forget it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Indictment of War...Affirmation of Humanity, July 1 2003
By 
Amazon Customer (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Paths of Glory (Full Screen) (DVD)
It has been almost 50 years since this anti-war film appeared, one which was banned in France until 1970. It is based on Humphrey Cobb's novel. Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas who also produced it, the film examines a fictional (but nonetheless wholly believable) situation during World War One when French troops are ordered to achieve an impossible military objective: Climb and secure the "Ant Hill," a heavily-fortified German position. Of course the troops are decimated. Whom to blame? General Broulard (Adolph Menjou) who gave the order? The troops' general, General Mireau (George MacReady), whose career ambitions overcame his doubts about the order? The officer (Colonel Dax) who led the attack? General Broulard gives a second order: Select three of the survivors, charge them with cowardice, give them a perfunctory military trial, and then execute them. Their commanding officer is Colonel Dax (Douglas) who had been an attorney in civilian life. He is ordered to be the defense counsel. After the inevitable verdict, the three representatives are executed by a firing squad.
Kubrick presents all this on film as if it were a documentary of actual events. Appropriately, he filmed it in black-and-white, in part to dramatize the obvious juxtapositions of right and wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice, etc. The battlefield carnage is extensive but not gratuitous. For me, the insensitivity, indeed inhumanity of the two generals -- far removed from combat in luxurious comfort -- is far more upsetting than the assault on the "Ant Hill." The men who followed orders and lost their lives or their limbs may have died in vain but at least died with honor, if not glory. Kubrick leaves absolutely no doubt about the generals who sent them into battle. Colonel Dax understands the need for military discipline. Orders must be followed. He eventually realizes that no matter how logical and eloquent his defense, the three men are doomed as were so many of their comrades were while climbing the "Ant Hill." Dax also realizes Broulard and Mireau will never be held accountable for the order nor for denying any responsibility for its tragic consequences. Dante reserved the worst ring in hell for those who, in a moral crisis, preserved their neutrality. Kubrick ensures that Menju and MacReady portray Broulard and Mireau not as neutral accomplices but as agents of evil: a more dangerous adversary than the one their troops face in battle.
Is conscience among war's victims? That is certainly not true of Dax. He did everything he could to save the three men. He leaves absolutely no doubt in the minds of Generals Broulard and Mireau what he thinks of them, both as officers and as human beings. However, they are his military superiors and the war continues after the executions. I mention all this by way of suggesting a context for my opinion that the final scene in the cafe has a very important purpose: to communicate Kubrick's reassurance to those who see his film that even amidst war's death and mutilation, the very best of human instincts somehow prevail. They cannot be defeated by the "Ant Hill," nor by Broulard and Mireau and their obscene abuse of military justice. In my opinion, that is what Dax realizes in the cafe as he and other soldiers listen to a terrified girl sing. And that is the final "message" which Kubrick seems determined to leave with his audience.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant portrayal of a corrupt army and nation., Nov. 3 2002
By 
Roger J. Buffington (Huntington Beach, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Paths of Glory (Full Screen) (DVD)
The time, world war 1. The place, the French Army on the Western Front. A French infantry regiment is ordered into an impossible attack against a powerfully fortified position. They fail, of course, in some of the most realistic combat scenes of any movie. (The combat scenes are essentially "Saving Private Ryan" without the gore.) Of course, this impossible mission was motivated by corrupt French politics and the venal ambition of the French division commander, and now three soldiers are to be scapegoated for "cowardice" and tried by court-martial.
Kirk Douglas plays the role of the commander of the attack who also acts as defense counsel for the scapegoated soldiers, whom he knows to be innocent. This was a great role for Douglas. The acting in this flick is very good, the story line is excellent, and the movie moves along at a brisk pace to its predictable but nonetheless hard-hitting conclusion.
This movie will make you think, and helps one understand how an army full of tough soldiers can nevertheless be corrupted by politics and ambition, as the French army and nation indeed were.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Anti-war? More like anti-poor leadership film, Sept. 24 2002
By 
Jeremiah J. Timmins (Laconia, NH USA!) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Paths of Glory (Full Screen) (DVD)
Pretty good film with excellent scenes and photography, great acting, and great drama.

I hope this film is used as an entertaining instructional film for officer candidates. It's great at showing the hypocrisy, egotism, and unchecked evil that can seep into a unit's leadership when the wrong personalities are present.

This was based on a work of fiction, but truth is stranger than fiction, so I'm certain situations like the one this film is about have occured at some point, or some side or another, in the Great War.

I don't get why everyone says it's an anti-war movie. There were no pacifist speeches or overt debates about the morals of fighting. Instead, it just focused on a massive abortion of justice and the terrible leaders the men of the 701st regiment had.

In any army, or unit, be it a corporation or a rifle company, there are always going to be 'stupid' orders the grunts have to follow. But men will instinctively know when something is total BS or not, but morale and leadership have to be pretty damn low for guys to outright refuse orders, which, by the way, none of the guys in the trial did.

When troops refuse orders en masse, it's usually not because they're cowards, but they lack the proper leadership. That was apparent in this movie, when the general orders a single battle-weary, understrength regiment to take an entire hill in broad daylight without sufficient artillery prep, reinforcements, or even a smoke screen to hide their approach along a clear field of fire for dozens of Boche machine guns. Hell, these guys wanted to fight the war, but no one wants to die for no reason at all. If you're sitting in a trench and you know that an advance is completely futile, why would you use yourself as target practice for the enemy machine gunners?

In any case, the French generals were a little bit over the top. Other than that, it was a good idea to just speak English without attempting a silly French accent. Also, the lack of blood and guts ala some modern war movies allowed one to concentrate on the drama of the story. All around a decent 4-star movie.

-- JJ Timmins
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Paths of Glory (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Paths of Glory (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] by Stanley Kubrick (Blu-ray - 2010)
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