|Rating: The Good – 85.8
Duration: 172 mins
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Stars: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young
Franklin J. Schaffner’s account of Patton’s effect on the African and European Theatres of operations during World War II is a gripping watch replete with iconic imagery. The great general is played by George C. Scott whose extraordinary performance exudes all the charisma and boundless confidence which has come to define the enigmatic US general. From the opening scene as Patton stands in front of a gigantic stars and stripes dictating his philosophy on the American soldier to his denouement, Scott draws the audience towards him with gravitas and ease. It’s a multi-sided performance too as we get to see the humour, the courage, the intellect, the ambition, as well as the viciousness that defined the man’s reputation since he rose to the media’s attention.
How much of it is true, we’ll probably never know but you couldn’t ask for a better character to build a war movie around. Furthermore, Scott and director Franklin Schaffner seemed the perfect duo to get the most out of it. Schaffner continuously found all sorts of new settings, shots, and scenarios to convey the regal poise of Patton. The scene in which Patton is driven from Morocco to take command of the U.S. II Corps is a particularly impressive example of such and screams to us that, if anything, the director and star are aiming somewhere between the man and the myth.
The battle sequences themselves are hugely impressive and because the audience are rarely brought down into the nitty-gritty of each battle, they play out on a uniquely broad cinematic dimension. This makes them all the more fascinating as the tactics which Patton used can be glimpsed with enough satisfaction to deepen our interest in the man as much as the battles. In a film such as this, support players can become less relevant but Karl Malden’s General Omar Bradley offers a nice counter-point to the eccentric general. Patton has all the epic hallmarks of the great WWII movies but by building the action around such a powerful personality it goes beyond those movies and gives the audience something or someone they can tie in with with no trouble at all.