Thursday, July 02, 2009


After finishing the movie "Patton," I thought to myself, what makes this movie work? What keeps the viewer, interested, entertained, an intrigued (hopefully) for nearly 3 hours (170 minutes), especially when most of the scenes center around one character?

There are a lot of qualities I admire about the film. One of them is the epic scale, authenticity, and brutality of the battle scenes. When I watch this film I get nostalgic for a time when tanks and fights weren't rendered from afar so as to hide their superficial quality, which is so present in this day and age. Instead, we get an epic scope of how large these battles truly were. The film moves between every side, angle, and perspective of the battles, from the tanks, soldiers, and commanders. This puts the viewer in a position where the battles are real, and not so 'cosmetic' in appearance. However, despite these positive qualities, the battles are not primarily the central factor that makes the film work.

The film works because it centers around a particular type of character--one that has inner conflicts. Patton is a man who is torn between two worlds: contemporary vs. historical; authoritative vs. compassionate; disciplined vs. subordinate; brutal vs. polite; glorified vs. sacrificial. What the film then does is sequentially explore each aspect of his character through the various situations he is put in. Every new scene in the film literally has two outcomes: He can either go with his often contrary nature (and face the consequences), or against it (which is often what is required of him). Because of this, each scene in itself is a battle in which the viewer must ask: Which decision Patton is going to make?

As a biographical film, it truly works in this respect. The very opening shot of the film presents Patton in a speech to his troops, illustrating his character, ideals, and mannerisms. Through the backdrop of World War II, the film places Patton in situation after situation examining his character. Is Patton going to sacrifice his glory and protect his fellow general's flank, or is he going to leave them behind and race to the city first? Is he going to slap an insubordinate soldier who is afraid to perform his duty, or is he going to show him compassion in his failure? Is he going to accept the Russian victory and subsequent friendship, or deny it entirely at the expense of foreign diplomacy? The film puts all these questions and more to light through all the different environments Patton is placed in.

World War II also works as a significant plot device to further explore Patton's character. The very fact that we know that World War II is approaching an end puts Patton on a time-constraint to change his ways (implausibly, I might add) or remain the same as before. Moreover, the film uses the characters of Rommel, Bradley, and Montgomery to contrast with Patton. Rommel presents a formidable villain--if you could call him that--to Patton, and this sets up a necessary conflict and goal to which Patton must aspire. Bradley contrasts with Patton in the sense of glory vs. sacrifice, in which Bradley does what is best for his men, and Patton pursues glory for himself. Montgomery presents a similar situation which also extends into Patton's diplomatic character; will Patton sacrifice his bitter relationship, or accept an unwieldy friendship? Through the contrast with these characters, Patton's own qualities are heightened in that respect.

All in all, "Patton" is an admirable film for what it succeeds in doing so well. It paints a picture of an iconic, conflicted hero, all through the midst of an inspiring history lesson of World War II.

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Army of Shadows in 5 Sentences

Note: This is about the film, not the French Resistance.

A quiet-mannered man in his mid 40s--who in fact happens to be the chief of the French resistance--is taken to a German prison camp and eventually escapes.

He goes back to his resistance's headquarters and executes one of his own men (a traitor, of course).

He, along with his other resistance members, continue to frolic about recruiting other people, get help from the British, and live in fear--all through long, painful extended shots exhibiting mundane and everyday behavior, most notably long, drawn-out sequences of walking or performances of ordinary tasks such as putting on a coat in the slowest way possible.

Eventually, they get captured several times, escape several more times, and then kill their own members several more times.

By the end of the film, they accomplished nothing, got arrested a lot, endangered the lives of everyone around them, killed their own members, and then all died shortly after.


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