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Crime, Drama, War
IMDB rating:
Stanley Kubrick
Kirk Douglas as Col. Dax
Ralph Meeker as Cpl. Philippe Paris
Adolphe Menjou as Gen. George Broulard
George Macready as Gen. Paul Mireau
Wayne Morris as Lt. Roget / Singing man
Richard Anderson as Maj. Saint-Auban
Joe Turkel as Pvt. Pierre Arnaud (as Joseph Turkel)
Christiane Kubrick as German singer (as Susanne Christian)
Jerry Hausner as Proprietor of cafe
Peter Capell as Narrator of opening sequence / Judge (colonel) of court-martial
Emile Meyer as Father Dupree
Bert Freed as Sgt. Boulanger
Kem Dibbs as Pvt. Lejeune
Timothy Carey as Pvt. Maurice Ferol
Storyline: The futility and irony of the war in the trenches in WWI is shown as a unit commander in the French army must deal with the mutiny of his men and a glory-seeking general after part of his force falls back under fire in an impossible attack.
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"See that cockroach? Tomorrow morning, we'll be dead and it'll be alive."
Stanley Kubrick's 'Paths of Glory' is the ultimate anti-war film. Rather than simply showing us the horrors of warfare and declaring that 'war is hell,' this films genuinely fills us with unbridled hate and anger, revealing the sheer folly and uselessness of combat. There are heroes in war, of course – namely Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) and his brave fighting soldiers – but certainly not the generals, who sit back in their comfortable armchairs and send thousands of their men to certain death without a trace of guilt or remorse.

In the treacherous front-line trenches of World War One, a regiment of soldiers is ordered on a suicidal mission to seize the German-occupied "Anthill." French General Mireau (George Macready) is at first hesitant about the attack, citing the unacceptably high fatality rate and his duty to his loyal soldiers, but he is very quickly swayed in his convictions when his superior, General George Broulard, (Adolphe Menjou), hints at the possibility of a promotion. And so, led by a doubtful but loyal Colonel Dax (Douglas), the soldiers – in perhaps the most realistic war combat scene this side of 'Saving Private Ryan' – proceed with the attack, suffering immense losses and ultimately being forced to retreat. Furious about the perceived "cowardice" of his troops, an enraged General Mireau orders his artillery to open fire on his own men, but the artillery commander refuses to obey without a confirmation of written orders.

Rather than taking the blame himself for the failed attack, Mireau decides to execute three men to set an example to the soldiers. Corporal Paris (Ralph Meeker) is chosen for execution because his commanding officer has a personal vendetta against him; Private Arnaud (Joe Turkel), one of the most courageous soldiers in his regiment, was chosen randomly; Private Ferol (Timothy Carey) was chosen because he was something of a social outcast. Colonel Lax passionately defends the actions of his men during the court-martial, but, despite the utterly ridiculous cases made against them, all three men are inevitably found guilty of "cowardice in the face of the enemy" and sentenced to death by firing squad.

Later, in one of the most suspenseful sequences ever committed to film, accompanied by the slow steady beat of an army drum, the three condemned men are lead to their place of execution, tied to posts and shot down by the weapons of their own army. Any other film from this era would have baulked at the final moment, offering its prisoners a last-minute reprieve, and the swift persecution of every general in charge of the original attack. Kubrick reportedly toyed with this option at one point, but it is to his credit that he stood firm on his daring and controversial ending. Indeed, French authorities considered the film such an offence to their army's honour that it was banned until 1975.
A strong anti-war statement
Stanley Kubrick's 1957 war film, "Paths of Glory" based on a novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb is more of an anti-war statement. Hence, calling it a 'war film' wouldn't be right, as it does not lie in the same category as other war films, plot-wise.

The film is set during World War I. The story focuses on the war between the French and the Germans. General Mireau (George Macready) sends his division headed by Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) on a suicidal mission to take over a prominent German position called "Anthill". Initially Mireau is reluctant to carry out this task, but is enticed by an offer of promotion from his superiors. With this in mind, he practically forces Dax to begin with the mission. Col. Dax, also aware of the danger associated with the mission, points the same out to Mireau but Mireau does not relent.

Sure enough, the mission ends in disaster and what follows next is the crux of this powerful story.

What happens when these men in the very same army, defending the same country, from the same regiment turn against each other? What happens when some superior officers get greedy and selfish and stop valuing human life, more so, the lives of their own soldiers? "Paths of Glory" goes deep in the psyche of these men, both superiors and subordinates and makes a strong statement on what war does to them.

"Paths of Glory" was just a modest success commercially, I've read. It comes as a surprise, considering the screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson is spell-binding, to say the least. Kubrick directs with his touch of genius and creates a tremendous impact. The first scene of attack on Anthill is so masterfully shot, you actually feel you are in the field of battle! Ditto for the rest of the film when things take an unexpected turn for some of the less fortunate soldiers. Every frame of this picture is gripping, right 'til the final one.

Kirk Douglas delivers a fabulous performance as Colonel Dax. His helplessness and the growing frustration about the greedy and corrupt army officers and the overall futility of the system is so convincing, it creates a lasting impression. This is one earnest and unforgettable performance by the legendary actor.

George Macready lends a great supporting act as the selfish, cut-throat General Mireau. So do others, including Wayne Morris, Ralph Meeker, Joe Turkel and Timothy Carey.

A special mention here, of Mrs. Kubrick (Christiane Kubrick) who makes an appearance for a short scene to sing the haunting German folk song, 'The Faithful Hussar'. She appears in a scene towards the end in what could be one of the best and most haunting endings I've ever seen in film.

"Paths of Glory" may not be as popular as some of Stanley Kubrick's later films, but it is definitely one of his best.
Kubrick--a fully-formed genius in 1957.
At only 29 years of age and in only his second major studio release, Stanley Kubrick showed the world that he was a force to be reckoned with. By the time he died 42 years later his films were epochal events waited for breathlessly by his large band of devotees who considered him a director without equal. He seldom disappointed them.

This movie is set in World War I amidst the incredibly destructive and futile trench warfare between France and Germany. Kirk Douglas plays Frenchman Colonel Dax, who is ordered to make an impossible assault on a heavily-fortified enemy position. The only reason this charge is being made is that his commanding general, played by George Macready, believes that capturing the position will earn him a promotion. When the assault does not go forward under heavy enemy bombardment, the general is infuriated and demands that three men be arbitrarily chosen to stand trial for cowardice, an offense punishable by death. Col. Dax defends these men at their court-martial.

The battle and trial scenes are about as good as have ever been filmed and the high level of tension is sustained throughout the movie. After the film's climax has occurred, Col. Dax goes looking for his troops and finds them relaxing at a cafe. What he and the viewer witness there is possibly the most affecting scene I've ever seen on screen.

Looking at this film in perspective, it's easy to see Kubrick's trademarks even at this early stage of his career. The attention to the composition of his shots reflects his background as a still photographer and foreshadows his other great films to come. I find myself most impressed today with the way he could handle a dramatic story like this one without any innovative techniques or unusual special effects to hide behind, then turn around and make such totally different films like '2001...' and 'Dr. Strangelove...' Other films like 'The Shining' and 'Barry Lyndon' combined a strong story line with breakthrough film techniques. His versatility astonishes me.

Adolphe Menjou also stars as the general who convinces Dax's superior officer to risk the ill-fated charge. Ralph Meeker, Timothy Carey and Joe Turkel give strong performances as the men on trial. Turkel turns up 23 years later in another Kubrick film, 'The Shining,' playing the bartender.

You can take your pick: 'Paths of Glory' can rightly be described as one of the greatest war movies of all, or one of the great anti-war films, or as one of Kubrick's best. Or simply one of the best, period.
Many films preach to us the horrors of battle and tout the slogan: "war is hell". Most only serve to give the viewer two hours of grand battle scenes interspersed with mostly forgetful introspective moments by the main characters. Then there is the film Paths of Glory directed by Stanley Kubrick. It could have been a grand World War I spectacle with a cast of thousands and sets rivaling the war itself. Instead, Kubrick brings us a story of a failed battle told from a personal side rather then the often used long shot of war, shown on a grand scale, so often used in lesser films. Paths of Glory is the story of an egotistical Generals failure and the lengths he is willing to go to protect his reputation.

What a truly grand film this is. Even though this is one of Stanley Kubrick's early films, his genius is plainly evident. In one of the first scenes in the film he took what could have been a long, dull conversation between two Generals and choreographed their movements, along with the cameras, in such a way as to keep the viewers attention. Also, the long dolly shot that followed the General through the "trench" is purely Kubrick. One of his signature moves that he has incorporated in all his films.

The film ends with a scene of a frightened captured German woman being forced to sing to the French troops. On first thought I wondered why this scene was in the film. Looking back this scene provides much more incite to the situation then first at hand. She puts a face on a faceless enemy, thus humanizing them. We see her fear and realize that the French troops, who are soon off to another battle, are just as scared and unsure of their own futures. She is the only person of beauty in a world filled with horror. The palaces that the Generals occupy are grand, but also cold and lifeless. She is alive and out in the terrible world alongside the men in the trenches.

War is hell, not only for the soldier but also for all of humanity, and the only Paths of Glory shown to us in this film is the one taken by the three men. This is what the film is truly about.
Kubrick's "anti"-war film is to-the-point, powerful
War is a horrible thing. That's the general message of Stanley Kubrick's "Paths of Glory," but it's not meant in the sense of people killing other people is bad, it's because war makes us dehumanize ourselves, make poor decisions and devalue human life. This is a war story told on one side. The antagonist in this film is not the other side, it's the people in power and our inability to see clearly because our judgment is clouded by ideas we claim to be greater than ourselves. The film might not seem like a fair portrayal of the military, but it is a masterpiece of showing how war can turn us into terrible people if we're not careful.

Set on the French side against the Germans in World War I, the film is about a French offensive that ends in death and retreat. When the general charges the survivors with cowardice punishable by death, Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) must defend the lives of three of his men from the military powers that want to make an example of their execution. It is a story told with blunt dialog about the use and abuse of power, but it is structured and executed in a way that creates audience sensitivity and emotion first to justify the dialog's use.

It also helps the dialog to have much of it delivered by Kirk Douglas. Col. Dax is not a flawless character, but he's about as good as they come: smart, honest, passionate and selfless. Douglas plays the role with equal conviction -- it's hard not to cheer for his character and it's incredibly satisfying whenever he outsmarts the corrupt characters. Though he's far from French (a little authenticity in the film in general, like French extras at the least would've been nice)

Though Kubrick's talents will flourish in his later films, "Paths of Glory" is filmed beautifully. It is not a very visual war film, there is a lot of dialogue, but Kubrick somehow conveys his meaning so clearly to the audience. He mixes in shots of various lengths, carefully picking his close-ups of characters to indicate the pivotal moments and sometimes capturing the whole setting from far away for dramatic impact. He also uses a lot of long takes, a couple of times following one character who is the focus of the previous scene until the character focused on in the next scene walks by, then he changes directions. The techniques are simple, but they catch your attention when meaningful. Douglas and others like George Macready as the corrupt General Mireau also help maintain that dramatic interest.

Once fantastic choice Kubrick makes is keeping the Germans out of it. You never see them, only their artillery exploding in the war zone. It's critical to understanding that the real war here is not against the Germans, its within the French ranks. It's a war Kubrick wages against unfairness and injustice. He also portrays a wide range of character reactions to war. Of the three prisoners, each provides the viewer a unique insight to war and imminent death. The film really begins to make you rethink what courage is. Is it courageous just to accept death, even under unfair circumstances? Each prisoner's battle becomes a microcosm for the initial conflict of the soldiers retreating or in some cases not even leaving the trenches.

"Paths of Glory" is an incredible statement film about war's dark side, about how we're taught to fight for certain things like glory and patriotism and to obey all orders. This film downright questions it from the beginning and supports itself throughout its duration. It then goes on to address deeper questions of courage, faith and ultimately the timeless question of whether or not humans are inherently good or evil. At 87 minutes long, "Paths of Glory" still manages to tell a vital story with passion and grace.
Stands the Test of Time
An arrogant French general (a superb George Macready) orders his men on a suicide mission and then has the gall to try to court marshal and execute three of them for cowardice in the face of the enemy. A former lawyer turned colonel (Kirk Douglas in his prime) is the voice of reason against gross injustice. This excellently staged and wonderfully acted production is as much an acting showcase for Douglas as it is a directorial masterstroke by a young Stanley Kubrick who adapted this to the screen from a novel based on actual accounts.

Kubrick displays a great control of sound effects and camera movement in the brief but effective battle scenes that expertly depict the controlled chaos that was trench warfare during WWI. Things get juicier during the ensuing courtroom battle where the deafening disparity between the elite who propagate and profit from war and the common citizens who suffer and die in war is shown with great lucidity.

Unlike later Kubrick epics, this runs at a crisp 90 minutes, though suffers briefly from a slow and awkwardly staged opening ten minutes before Douglas comes on screen. Ultimately, this holds up very well to modern scrutiny thanks to the flawlessness of Kurbick's craft, the amazing ensemble acting, and the surprising depth of its philosophical and psychological pondering. "Paths of Glory" is more anti-arrogance than anti-war, and is unapologetically sentimental and pro-soldier. As such, much can still be gleaned from its message.
Stanley Kubrick made some fascinating films in his day and this is certainly one of them. Kirk Douglas is perfectly cast as the proud and fair Colonel Dax who does his best to curb the corruption, but to no avail. Adolphe Menjou and George Macready are also right on the money as higher-ups with barely a smidgeon of humanity left in their rotting souls. Of the enlisted men, Ralph Meeker is a standout as Paris - simply superb. Timothy Carey is always a joy to see. Joseph Turkel, Richard Anderson and the rest - job well-done.

One of the best of that year. Tense and an incredible final scene that is NOT just tacked on. Recommended for all!
Anti-war cinema at its most powerful
Paths of Glory is one of the two war movies Stanley Kubrick directed throughout a splendid career (the other being Full Metal Jacket). And though at first sight these films may seem very different, they share a vital key theme: the futility of war and the monstrous effects it has on the human psyche.

In the case of FMJ, the monstrosity is shown through the actions of Pvt. Pyle (Vincent D' Onofrio) and Joker (Matthew Modine), both mentally scarred by the teachings of sadistic Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey). In Paths, however, the dreadful actions do not take place on the battlefield, but in a courtroom: it is in that courtroom that three randomly selected French soldiers (the context is WWI) are to be court-martial-ed, the charges being cowardliness and refusal to accomplish the mission assigned to them. What the prosecutors don't know is that the mission in question (attacking the Anthill) would have resulted in a bloodbath on the French side and that Gen. Mireau (George MacReady), who ordered the attack and also insisted on holding the trial, was so disappointed he actually asked one of his men to shoot the retreating soldiers. The only person who seems to understand what is really going on is Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas), and it is his difficult job to convince his superiors of the necessity of the squad's behavior.

Anyone who is even vaguely acquainted with Kubrick knows this is not going to be a fairy tale: Paths of Glory is one of the most effective anti-war films ever made because it is not afraid to expose the more rotten aspects of what happens in these situations (and it invites comparison with the M*A*S*H episode where Alan Alda makes a documentary and says :"This is no way to end a movie, I know that, but war is no movie"). The director openly criticizes the very nature of conflict by immediately taking Dax's side, showing that he, unlike Mireau who admires the size of the trenches (one of the most beautiful of Kubrick's many tracking shots) and only wants to be remembered as a great general, is more concerned about bringing his men back home as unharmed as possible, putting glory aside.

One scene in particular supports the filmmakers'point more than anything else: the trial. While the prosecutor just wants to have the three soldiers sentenced to death and barely pays attention to them, Dax (played with solemn authority by Douglas) allows them to explain what actually occurred during the attack and uses this to openly express his contempt for what the war has done to everyone around him, depriving them of any reason and consideration for human life. That one powerful and upsetting sequence proves beyond any doubt that any war, no matter how noble it may be in its organizer's intentions, is totally and utterly incapable of bringing any real profit: all that results is hatred and greed.

Kubrick directed nine more pictures after this one, and all of them dealt on some level with the frailty of humanity and its inevitable decline. Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket aside, though, none of them, however perfect, resonates with as much anger and relevance as Paths of Glory.
Much too simple, much too easy
I was rather disappointed by this movie. It is supposed to bring a strong message about the cruelty of war, not only created by the fights but also by the nature of man. The problem is that the good guys are too perfect while the bad guys are too bad. The story is too simple, and I am not sure it has any intellectual value, despite the evident willing to criticize.
An Anti-War Masterpiece
In France, in the First World War, the insane and ambitious general Gen. Paul Mireau (George Macready) orders Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) to lead his men in a suicide attack against Germans in the unattainable Ant Hill. After a massacre of the French soldiers, Gen. Mireau orders his artillery to drop bombs between the French front line of attack and the trenches, to avoid the soldier to return to the protection of the trenches. The commander of the French artillery refuses to accomplish the order. Gen. Mireau asks his superior, Gen. George Broulard (Adolphe Menjou), to send three men to Court Martial and execute them for cowardice through shooting, as an example to the other soldiers. Colonel Dax, a former lawyer, defends his men in the unfair trial. Yesterday I watched this outstanding masterpiece for the first time and certainly it is among the best movies of the cinema history. The disgusting story shows the insanity of a war, where men are treated like numbers and not as human beings. The reality of the battles scenes is amazing. The cast has a stunning performance, highlighting the trio George Macready, Adolphe Menjou and Kirk Douglas. The lack of sensibility and respect for the human life and the cynicism in the dialogs of the two generals are fantastic. Two other points that called my attention are the fancy reception for the general staff, while their subalterns are fighting in the front and the misunderstanding of the real intentions of Colonel Dax by Gen. George Broulard. A must-see movie! My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): `Glória Feita de Sangue' (`Glory Made of Blood')
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