Classic Film Review: Patton (1970)

And the Oscar Goes to:

Patton, 1970

Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner

Starring: George C. Scott, Karl Malden


Patton is an epic biographical war film about U. S. General George S. Patton (George C. Scott) during the latter years of World War II. And, I must admit, I didn’t like it. Earlier in the summer I watched Dunkirk, and I’ve seen many, many films about World War II from all angles, but a film about a war general who is, as a character, awful at best, without too much fighting is not what I want to see. It also made me laugh that the beginning had General Patton address an unseen crowd by saying America will never lose a war; the irony here being they were currently in the middle of the Vietnam War as this film was released and they certainly didn’t win that war.

Patton spends the entirety of the film annoying the people on screen and being detestable to all who serve under him and ignoring the commands of those over him as he goes in search for battle in a way which glorifies the war and lessens the effort of soldiers (constantly seeing Patton in his luxury rooms and criticising others for not having the time to read the Bible or write home whereas he does both). It does a good job at portraying the after effects of some of his actions (such as slapping a soldier for being afraid), and there is some moments of character development, but overall, and I don’t know if I feel this way as I had no idea who General Patton was beforehand, I didn’t like him, and when a character who spends over 90% of the time on screen in a film lasting nor far off three hours is dislikeable, the film itself becomes somewhat dislikeable.

It does many things well, though, and for one George C. Scott is fantastic as Patton, showing hatred of cowards and Germans and the love of war, mixed beautifully with his latter moments of borderline begging for a place in the war. And the film looks amazing, an incredible feat considering this film is pushing 50 years old. The battlefields look either incredibly detailed or incredibly sad, depending on the scene and if the fighters there were alive or not, and the editing really captures some of the sadness that is needed at times. However we soon leave the battlefield of dead bodies to follow Patton back to being paraded through towns and cities as a hero. Whenever I think of the war I think of the soldiers fighting and dying for their country, of the British towns and cities being bombed on a regular basis, of our soldiers struggling and our leaders fretting over what to do next, and I just didn’t take to a commander whose only problems during the war was backlash from slapping a soldier and insulting Russians, while taking on mass amounts of glory for killing Germans (which we don’t see too often). There’s flashes of character work (I read up a bit about General Patton beforehand and know he was probably insane) but that’s few and far between for my liking.

A dislikeable lead, and nobody else to root for, a war film without much of the war and a series of Americans congratulating each other in fancy hotel rooms before driving down a road, killing some Germans and congratulating each other in fancier hotel rooms. I accept that it is a fine film in terms of its creation, but, to me, it’s one of the poorest war films I’ve seen.


Plot: * *

Acting: * * * *

Writing: * * *

Presentation: * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ¼

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