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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Patton

Starring: George C. Scott, Karl Malden
Director: Franklin Schaffner
Rated: PG
RunTime: 171 Minutes
Release Date: January 1970
Genres: Classic, Action, Drama, War

*Also starring: Stephen Young, Michael Strong, Frank Latimore, James Edwards, Lawrence Dobkin, Michael Bates, Tim Considine

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Walter Frith review follows ---
2.  Brian Koller read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Walter Frith
No Rating Supplied

'Patton' is the film the elevated many careers. It also caused controversy, inspired bravery and honour, and made a false prophecy in its opening monologue that is now legendary. Combine it with its intellectual look at war (there isn't that much action) and you have the makings for one of the 20th century's top five films about war. Many say that 'Patton' is a great biography. If you want to talk about two to three years of a man's life, I suppose you could make that argument but it's a weak one. A character study would be a more appropriate description of this great motion picture set in World War II.

Although he is known for the 'Godfather' films and 'Apocalypse Now', people should be constantly reminded that one of the authors of the film's screenplay is none other than Francis Ford Coppola who shared an Oscar with Edmund H. North for this film. A winner of six other Oscars ----- Best Picture, Best Director (Franklin J. Schaffner), Best Actor (George C. Scott - who refused the award), Sound, Film Editing and Art Direction/Set Decoration, 'Patton' has the dubious distinction of producing a leading actor in his most famous role and wondering if at times you're being fooled into thinking the real Patton is on screen. George C. Scott is absolutely riveting as the no-nonsense, outspoken and mean tempered general with a compassionate side and knows when to use these two main sides of his personality.

The film begins in a glorious manner with a platoon of soldiers being brought to attention as General Patton makes his way to the platform and discusses all that is American about war with a huge American flag hanging in the background. When he's done, you're ready to sign up! He says at one point that "Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. Because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans." Upon the film's release in 1970, right in the middle of the Vietnam War, the general would turn out to be wrong about this.

The film then opens after its credit roll to a massacre of American troops under British command in North Africa during the middle of the war. A new commanding general is assigned and it is none other that Patton himself. Working with Patton is General Omar Bradley (Karl Malden) in a top performance that should have netted Malden a Best Supporting Actor nomination but didn't.

The two sides of Patton's moody personality come into full view in a tent in Sicily when he comforts the men wounded seriously in battle and kneels at the bedside of one soldier who is incapacitated with his eyes bandaged and oxygen being fed into him. Patton whispers something in his ear which the audience doesn't hear and he then lays a medal on the soldier's pillow and gives him a gentle touch on the head. Patton then turns around and sees a soldier crying and after repeated attempts at getting him to stop, Patton slaps the helmet right off his head and curses at him. He orders the man out of the tent and threatens to shoot him before two men forcibly remove him from the tent.

After this incident, Patton must apologize to the soldier he slapped on direct orders from his superiors and the scene where he apologizes is probably Scott's best scene in the film. A real life performance by Scott shook up the motion picture academy when he refused to accept his Best Actor award by saying that he felt the acting community was a group effort and that actors shouldn't be in competition with each other. Scott received two other Oscar nominations previously for 1959's 'Anatomy of a Murder' and 'The Hustler' in 1961 and had asked that his name be removed from the list in both cases. He would receive one more nomination to date after 'Patton' for his 1971 performance in 'The Hospital' and how his performance in 'Dr. Strangelove' in 1964 wasn't nominated is only one of many Oscar mysteries.

The climax of 'Patton' is memorable from a scene involving Patton's request to an army chaplain where he wants a weather prayer to relieve blizzard like conditions and he gets both the prayer and relief. Director Franklin J. Schaffner cross cuts Patton reading the prayer with intense battle scenes which is haunting, moving and unforgettable. A testament to how serious Patton was about winning the war with the enemy comes in a scene in the last third of the film where he shouts "If we are not victorious, let no one come back alive!" This film is alive and well today and is one of the most victorious films of all time with its peers, historians (both film and war) and with audiences. As long as there is war in the world, it will stand the test of time.

Copyright 1999 Walter Frith

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