Paths Of Glory (1957) Directed by Stanley Kubrick. With Kirk Douglas, George Macready and Adolphe Menjou
Very much like his later film Full Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick’s Paths Of Glory is a biting anti-war piece that highlights the absurdities of conflict and the deep rooted lack of morals that can fester through the chains of command in the name of showing good face.
Not only did Kirk Douglas star, he also produced and used his star power to get the film made in spite of the script being roundly sneered at in Hollywood circles as being a hard sell. The film is set in the French trenches during the first world war and Douglas plays Colonel Dax, an honest man of high principles who finds himself not only at war with the enemy over the battlefield, but also with his own commanding superiors. Douglas leads the line with his trademark stoical strength while General Paul Mireau (George Macready) and General George Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) represent the corrupted higher tiers of authority and it’s failure to protect those who fight it’s cause.
One third a film on the battlefield, one third a courtroom drama and one final third a powerful portrayal of the enemy within, and way in which a country often fights itself in these times of conflict. Kubrick’s message is as powerful and resonating today as it ever was. The chilling way in which men’s lives are counted as statistics and thought of as collateral damage by those in command, juxtaposed with the ‘bunk-talk’ between soldiers the night before a mission of how they are afraid to die, makes for some unforgettable moments. In terms of financial returns, it might not have made a dime but over fifty years on, it still makes most people’s top ten war films and at the skinny running time of just 88mins, is perhaps one of Kubrick’s more accessible films. 5/5