Thursday, November 22, 2007

Patton

(movie Review)

Another one of those old classics that I really should have seen long ago, but for various reasons am just getting around to now.

I had a college roommate who was a big fan of this movie, in part because he was a big World War II buff and amateur military historian, and in part (I suspect) because he shared the same surname with the General himself.

He used to replay this movie constantly in our apartment, and I because of him I would often see parts of this movie, but never sat through the whole thing. Mostly it was because of my "no movies during the school year" policy but also because I thought there were way too many World War II movies out there already, and not enough movies about the kinds of social history and popular movements I was more interested in.

I still think this actually, but when I saw this movie staring at me in the video store last night, I thought I was in the mood for a good bi-opic, and I was probably overdue to watch this movie anyway.

This is one of those classic movies that is worth watching at least once in your life if for no other reason than to be able to catch all the references to it that pop up all over the place. There were several times in this movie when I experienced the old, "Ah, so this is where that comes from," moment.

As for the merits of the movie by itself...
Despite this movies epic length, and despite the fact that this movie focuses only on two years of General Patton's life, one gets the sense watching it that the subject material is just to huge for 3 hours. There's so much stuff that you feel is just hanging off the edges because it doesn't have time to get covered in the movie.

For example, every school child knows the final fate of Rommel, implicated in the plot to kill Hitler and forced to commit suicide. But although Rommel figures prominently in the beginning of the movie as Patton's adversary, his final fate is never shown and he fades out of the movie without explanation.

Similarly General Eisenhower, someone else whose future fate we all know, is referenced repeatedly in this movie, but never makes an appearance. (If I can say this without sounding too much like a literary snob, Eisenhower in this movie reminded me of Fortinbras in Hamlet, as an off stage figure who is always haunting the action that goes on onstage. I half wonder if the structural similarity is intentional).

These and other details could have perhaps been crammed into the movie if the director had cut out some of the scenes of Patton standing around looking tough or soldiers marching with dramatic music in the background. But obviously the film makers were more concerned with producing an image of Patton than cramming in all the historical details.

The battle scenes in this movie are slightly repetitive, especially since after movies like "Saving Private Ryan" all previous World War II battle scenes are going to look tame by comparison and have lost their ability to shock us.

But the really interesting parts of this movie are the politics behind the war. Patton's rivalry with British general Montgomery, Eisenhower's struggle to hold the coalition together, and the famous slapping incident that almost ruined Patton's career.

Of course the slapping incident I knew about already from The Simpsons parody.To my surprise however Grandpa's quote: "You can push them out of a plane, you can march them off a cliff, you can send them off to die on some God-forsaken rock. But for some reason, you can't slap 'em", never appears in the movie. Does anyone know where this is from, or was this a Simpsons original?

Link of the DayFrom the Washington Post: Losing Afghanistan, One Civilian at a Time

1 comment:

Whisky Prajer said...

The bigger the screen, the better this movie is. And I agree with you: for all that, this movie isn't big enough.