Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Running Time: 88 mins
Paths Of Glory is an American film about a troop of French soldiers during World War One who, after being accused of disobeying commanding orders, are made an example of by the dictatorial general.
Not only is this a fantastic story, epitomising perfectly the atmosphere of the terrors of the First World War, but it’s also a technically genius film. It’s not particularly long, so to get such a story out of it requires mastery from the screenplay, which it pulls off, but the most impressive thing is Stanley Kubrick’s stunning directing and cinematography.
And that’s where we’ll start. Of course, Kubrick is heralded as one of the all time directing greats, and in this, one of his first films, he shows his hand brilliantly. There’s a great combination of all types of shots, creating quite a manic atmosphere within the film, perfectly mirroring the chaos of the trench warfare, while some of the slower and more poignant parts of the film work fantastically too in showing how brutal the lives of these soldiers were in World War One.
Another hugely impressive part of this film was Kirk Douglas’ performance. Here, he puts in a sterling piece of work to show the conflicting nature of the middle man in this army scenario, superior to the average Tommy (or whatever the French privates were called), but inferior to the commanding officer. He then shows his split loyalties between obeying high command and having a duty to his men on the ground, and it’s that compassion that you see within him that really makes you respect and support him.
One of the oddest parts of this film is that it feels strangely like a black comedy. It may just be me, but it seems as if, within the screenplay, there’s a hint at some dark jokes satirising the madness that was trench warfare, court marshalling and the concept of cowardice in The First World War, and that, in my opinion, was something really original and interesting to follow throughout.
However, the main part of the story is the harsh reality of this brutality, but it is that very frank and direct approach to the horrors of World War One that make this such an engaging story to follow.
There’s only one big problem with this film, and that’s the lack of any sort of score. The backing sounds of the film are mainly just explosions, gunfire and the normal wartime noises, and while that does give an authentic feel to the story, the lack of any music whatsoever does make it feel a little dry and dull to watch at points, however it’s still a fantastic film in so many ways, and that’s why it gets an 8.0.