Paths of Glory
Set during World War I, and based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb, Paths of Glory recounts the events that lead up to three French soldiers being executed as an example for others to carry on the fight. When tragedy strikes after an ill-advised scouting mission, General Mireau (George Macready) decides to deflect attention from his poor leadership by placing the blame on some of the soldiers in his platoon. Despite the protest from Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas), three innocent soldiers are picked to take the fall. The first is Corporal Paris (Ralph Meeker) who confronted his lieutenant, Roget (Wayne Morris), about lying in his report about the scouting mission. Private Arnaud (Joe Turkel), is picked at random despite his outstanding record, and Private Ferol (Timothy Carey) is picked because he is deemed unacceptable socially. Colonel Dax must use his legal knowledge to defend the men in a court martial where the odds are stack against him from the very beginning.
Paths of Glory is a heavy handed anti-war commentary that is more of a courtroom drama than a traditional war film. It is clear that Kubrick is making a clear a point on the senselessness of war. The men in positions to make the most important decisions are essentially cowards. The real heroes are the individuals on the front lines whose lives are basically toyed with by the generals with little regard.
Despite having nothing against the film’s overall message, Kubrick’s delivery is rather uninteresting. The story is straightforward and there are very few characters that are actually interesting. The only character that was truly intriguing was Private Ferol. Even though he is billed as the star, Kirk Douglas feels more like a secondary character than a true lead. Colonel Dax just does not have the depth that one would hope for in a film like this.
Considering how well Paths of Glory was received by critics upon its release, it is obvious that the film struck a cord with many. However, I ended up walking away from the film feeling rather disinterested about the whole thing. Paths of Glory just did not have the same impact for me as other Kubrick films.
Paths of Glory is part of our "The Must See List" series.