"Patton" is an intelligently written and well-plotted movie
that deserved its Academy Awards for "Best Picture" and
"Best Actor." It is an outstanding war movie that has its
focus not on the soldiers in the trenches, but the generals
who control their destinies.
The film follows the career of George Patton (George C. Scott)
from early battles against the Germans in North Africa, and
later in Italy and in Europe. Patton's biggest battles are
not always against the Germans, however. He must compete
against generals Montgomery and Bradley for resources and
key assignments, and never comprehends that a four-star
general must also be a success as a politician.
Movies are inherently fictional, even when based on actual
events or personalities. I don't know and don't care how
historically accurate this movie is. When discussing Patton,
I am referring to his film character. From the little I
know about Patton or WWII, the film is authentic enough for me.
One minor quibble: Omar Bradley's autobiography was used
as a source, and he served as a technical advisor, leading
to the Bradley character (Karl Malden) being perhaps
Patton is as broad a character a film could hope to have,
and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an actor. Scott
have a supporting role in "Dr. Strangelove", but he will be
forever typecast as Patton, as Patton will be forever identified
with the actor Scott. Patton is obsessed with military history
and achieving battlefield glory. He believes he is reincarnated,
with each life participating in the era's greatest battles.
He stubbornly refuses to see the growing international
obsolescence of the military relative to political and
Perhaps too much is made of Patton's abilities as a general.
The audience is led to believe that Patton could have won the
European war in a few months if it wasn't for pesky Montgomery
trying to steal his glory and supplies. A rare comic relief
moment involving Patton's cowardly pedigreed hound doesn't
quite work either.
But it is rare that a film character can have so much depth
that it can be explored for over two hours with such
effectiveness. Also, the tank battles, ancient ruins, and
general's housings (they lived well, with a full staff of
toadies) have excellent cinematography.
Copyright © 1999 Brian Koller