Thursday, April 3, 2014

PATTON (1970)

Whether you like the real life General George Smith Patton, Jr. or not, I think most movie lovers will agree this is one hell of a movie.

Completely skipping his younger years and centering solely on the years 1943 - 1945, PATTON opens with the now iconic scene of Patton, in full dress uniform, standing before a huge American flag and making a speech to his offscreen troops. After that we're taken to Northern Africa 1943, where he's placed in charge of a disorganized group of soldiers.  He soon wipes them into shape and wins a battle against the Nazis.  During all of this we learn that Patton believes in reincarnation and that he has lived many times before and has been present at different wars throughout history.  This will be a reoccurring theme through out the film.  After securing Northern Africa, Patton moves on to Italy.  It's a joint-campaign with the British with the British suppose to lead the way.  Frustrated by the slow progress Patton disobeys orders and smashes through to the port city of Messina.  His aggressive assault pisses off his men and he's eventually relieved of command after slapping a shell-shocked soldier and threatening to shoot him.

Meanwhile, the Nazis believe that this is all a ploy to trick them into not believing that Patton is actually going to be the one to lead the Allied invasion of German-occupied Western Europe.  The American leadership took advantage of this and made Patton the commander of a fictitious Army group that was going to invade at Pas-de-Calais.  Of course we all know the Allied forces actually landed in Normandy.  After D-Day Patton was given a real command.  Patton's Third Army then charged from August 1944 to May 1945 far into Nazi territory and claimed (according to Wikipedia) to have killed, wounded, or captured 1,811,388 German soldiers.

To make a detailed film about Patton's World War II years would be impossible, but with a running time of only 172 minutes PATTON does an amazing job.  The movie is over 40 years old and it still looks breathtaking.  Massive battle scenes with tons of extras, European locations (mostly Spain), zero CGI, genuine WWII-ear military vehicles and even planes!  And thanks to an amazing script by Francis Ford Coppola and a legendary performance by George C. Scott the viewer is truly transported to another time and place.  The first time I saw PATTON I don't think my mind wandered for a second.  Scott's performance is one of the best in movie history.