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Film Review: Patton

Updated on December 17, 2016

Background

In 1970, Franklin J. Schaffner directed Patton, based on the World War II career of the eponymous general. Starring George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates, Karl Michael Vogler, Edward Binns, Lawrence Dobkin, John Doucette, James Edwards, Frank Latimore, Richard Much, Morgan Paull, Siegfried Rauch, Paul Stevens, and Milchale Strong, the film grossed $61.7 million at the Box Office.

Synopsis

General Patton leads the American forces during World War II. On the battlefield, he’s a military genius who is respected by his allies and enemies. However, when not leading troops, his ego and volatility get the better of him.

Review

Patton is quite a fascinating film as the first five minutes really tells the viewer all they need to know about the General George S. Patton. Essentially a cold open where Patton is delivering a speech to unseen troops, everything he says presents his philosophy of battle, what he considered patriotism, and his expectations for the men serving under him.

He starts it off by saying wars aren’t won by dying for your country, rather they’re won by making the other side die for theirs and he has very grotesque imagery for how the soldiers before him are going to make that happen: cutting out their living guts and using them to grease the tank treads. Yet, this kind of language is called for and he very much delivers in his military maneuvers. It’s shown that when he’s going up against Rommel’s tank command his striving to ensure that the other side dies for their country goes so far that he’ll read what the enemy has written about tactics to use it against them. In doing so, he's able to make the men go through them as easily as he expects.

He also says that real Americans love battle, using admiration for the winners of competitions and tournaments as examples. According to him, the thought of losing is hateful to Americans and everyone under fire who are real Americans won’t chicken out and know exactly what to do. This establishes that Patton has no love or patience for anyone who lose their nerves or who claim they have no desire to fight or be in battle. In fact, he doesn’t accept that Shell Shock or Battle Fatigue is even real and believes it to be a cowards ticket home, going so far as to slapping and insulting a soldier for crying in front of wounded men. He has more respect for someone who’s been shot or blown up and have more visible injuries than those who have psychologically checked out.

The film further illustrates his beliefs in how highly he views glory and war, going so far as to admit that while others lead the men because they’ve been trained to do it, he does it because he loves it. As the film progresses, he's shown wishing he could have been born in a different era, as he voices his wish that he and Rommel could meet at 20 paces, give their regards and then joust on tanks. It shows that what he really wants is outdated in the 20th century. Even then, he holds the belief that he was present at many historical battles, so that could also be why he thinks so highly of war and has that specific desire.

Patton also says that he doesn’t want messages that they’re holding position as he believes only the enemy should hold and that they should be constantly advancing and taking more ground. His desire to constantly press on is so great that he won’t wait for two donkeys to start back up and goes so far as to shoot them so the convoy can continue onwards and stop getting strafed. This desire to constantly attack backfires on him too and he gets pinned down because his forces ran out of gas and had to wait for the supply trains to pick up.

The ending of the film does show how self-aware the general is about his views. He compares himself to a Roman conqueror by voice-over and in his relief of command, he reminds himself about the slave who stood behind the conqueror and told him that all glory is fleeting. It demonstrates that he knows how much glory he sought, how much he gained and then how humbled he became.

5 stars for Patton

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinion

Awards won

Academy Awards

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role (George C. Scott)
  • Best Director
  • Best Writing, Store and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced
  • Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
  • Best Sound
  • Best Film Editing

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama (George C. Scott)

American Cinema Editors Eddie Awards

  • Best Edited Feature Film

Directors Guild of America Awards

  • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures

Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Film
  • Best Actor (George C. Scott)

Golden Laurel Awards

  • Best Picture
  • Best Dramatic Performance, Male (George C. Scott)
  • Best Composer
  • Second Place - Best Supporting Performance, Male (Karl Malden)

Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Awards

  • Best Sound Editing - Feature Film

National Board of Review Awards

  • Best Film
  • Best Actor (George C. Scott)
  • Top Ten Films

National Film Preservation Board

  • National Film Registry

National Society of Film Critics Awards

  • Best Actor (George C. Scott)

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Actor (George C. Scott)

Writers Guild of America Awards

  • Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen

Nominated for

Academy Awards

  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Effects, Special Visual Effects
  • Best Music, Original Score

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Motion Picture - Drama
  • Best Director

BAFTA Awards

  • Best Actor (George C. Scott)
  • Best Sound Track


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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 2 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Nice review. I've watched it so many times I can't count (first time in the late 70s). I'm suprised it won Best Picture. It's a very good movie, but I would hesitate to say great. But maybe that's unfair when comparing to a modern war movie like Private Ryan or even Full Metal Jacket (different because they were not bio pics). Voted up and shared.