Watch Paths of Glory
- 1 hr 28 min
Paths of Glory is a gripping and emotionally charged war drama directed by Stanley Kubrick, starring Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, and Adolphe Menjou. Set during World War I, the movie tells the story of a group of French soldiers who are sent on a suicidal mission against a heavily fortified German position known as the "Anthill". When the attack fails and the soldiers face court-martial, their commanding officer Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) must fight to save them from a certain death.
The movie is based on a novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb, which itself was inspired by true events that happened during the Battle of Souain in 1915. Despite being a fictionalized account, Paths of Glory realistically depicts the brutality and senselessness of war and the corrupt nature of military justice. The soldiers are shown as pawns in the hands of their superiors, who care little for their lives and treat them as dispensable.
The first part of the movie shows the soldiers preparing for the attack and their apprehension about the mission. We see them in various states of mind, some resigned to their fate, others hopeful, others terrified. The scenes are shot with a documentary-like feel, using natural lighting and handheld cameras to create a sense of immediacy and realism. The soldiers are not portrayed as heroes or villains, but as ordinary people caught in a situation they have no control over.
Once the attack starts, the movie switches to a more conventional narrative style, focusing on the grim reality of trench warfare. The scenes are tense and claustrophobic, with explosions, gunfire, and screams creating a chaotic and disorienting atmosphere. Kubrick's direction is masterful, using close-ups and tracking shots to convey the visceral experience of combat. The soldiers' faces are etched with fear, pain, and exhaustion, their uniforms torn and bloodied. The film captures the sheer physical toll of war, as bodies pile up in the mud and the wounded crawl back to safety.
After the attack fails, the movie shifts to the courtroom drama that forms the heart of the story. The soldiers are accused of cowardice and insubordination, and their fate seems sealed from the start. The trial scenes are a damning indictment of the military justice system, with the officers more concerned with saving face than dispensing justice. Adolphe Menjou plays the smug and calculating General Broulard, who sees the trial as a chance to advance his career. He is matched by George Macready's General Mireau, a brutal and delusional commander who ordered the attack in the first place. Their motivations are less about justice and more about politics and ambition.
Kirk Douglas's Colonel Dax is the only sympathetic character in this world of military bureaucracy and corruption. He is a principled man who believes in the worth of his men and the importance of following orders only when they are just. He takes on the case of the accused soldiers with a passion and skill that the other officers lack. Douglas's performance is a tour de force, conveying the inner turmoil of a man who must navigate a maze of conflicting loyalties and moral dilemmas. His final speech to the assembled officers is a highlight of the movie, a scathing indictment of the hypocrisy and absurdity of war.
Paths of Glory is a movie that has lost none of its power and relevance in the decades since its release. Its themes of war, justice, and institutional corruption are as relevant today as they were in 1957. The movie is a masterpiece of filmmaking, with Kubrick at the height of his powers and a stellar cast giving nuanced and memorable performances. It is a movie that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
Paths of Glory is a 1958 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 28 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 8.4 and a MetaScore of 90.