Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1970. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Screen story and screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola, Edmund H. North, based on factual material from Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Fargo, and A Soldier’s Star by Omar N. Bradley. Cinematography by Fred J. Koenekamp. Produced by Frank McCarthy. Music by Jerry Goldsmith. Production Design by Urie McCleary, Gil Parrondo. Film Editing by Hugh S. Fowler. Academy Awards 1970. Golden Globe Awards 1970.
George C. Scott soars in this fascinating biopic of General George S. Patton. He makes a name for himself after a successful 1942 campaign against Rommel in North Africa that turns America’s fortunes around, then plays ego games with the British in his subsequent campaign in Sicily. The general’s eccentric personality, which includes frequent references to battles of antiquity (he firmly believes in reincarnation and ties the two interests together regularly) combined with his often ruthless treatment of his soldiers eventually earns him a dubious name in the public eye: Patton has great respect for physically wounded soldiers, but, to him, shell shock is merely the whining of cowards. His cruelty to a psychologically worn-out soldier inspires a public outcry and has the American army wondering whether or not they want to sacrifice lives to what they feel are the irresponsible whims of an egomaniac, a situation which is not helped by Patton’s frequent gaffes in public speeches and interviews. What you might fear would be a bland historical pageant in the vein of Tora! Tora! Tora! is actually a complex look at a fascinating personality who is both captivating and repulsive, and Scott is marvelous for his lack of fear at portraying it all. Francis Ford Coppola, whose directorial career had yet to take off, contributes to the magnificent dialogue, which makes as deep an impression as the crisp, gorgeous cinematography and magnificent set design.