Paths of Glory – Stanley Kubrick (1957)

As a third piece I thought it apt to pay homage to one of the true legends of cinema, Stanley Kubrick. To achieve what a legend such as Kubrick has, is tribute enough to such a talent. However, many of his later classics subjugate the brilliance of films like Paths of Glory (and Dr. Strangelove) which was arguably Kubrick’s first masterful classic. When Kubrick’s name is mentioned it is often in laud of films such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ or ‘The Shining’, however, Paths of Glory is a truly grand production worth every inkling of praise it has and will ever receive.

“This powerful, fact-based absurdity-of-war film stars Kirk Douglas as a commanding officer who defends three scapegoats on trial for a failed offensive that occurred within the French Army in 1916.”

I would argue that what makes the film a must-see is it’s riveting fusion of the dichotomy between being both a visual essay concerning the outlandishness and unjust essence of war with the compelling tale of Colonel Dax. A commanding officer who embarks on the defence of these ‘scapegoats’ that have been accused of cowardice in the face of an adverse attack in which the odds were overwhelmingly against their favour. Given the year, 1957, what makes the film a truly brilliant picture is it’s believability and emotion, it was completed with the same diligence and true-to-life prowess of Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’ . Although there are clear technical and aesthetic hindrances of Paths of Glory (that could only improve with improvement of technology) in comparison to Full Metal Jacket, it has a visceral core of emotion that Kubrick has so deftly conjured throughout his plethora of creations.

Paths of Glory was far from a commercial success in 1957, I can only assume that the issue of war at the time was still a subject perhaps undesirable to the viewer. This could be because many, understandably, wanted to shun and forget the horrors of both wars that had undoubtedly affected their lives and families. However, with the benefit of hindsight, the film has become a war classic and appropriately so, as there were a mere handful of films that truly challenged the hubris and perplexing nature of war. The audacity of Kubrick’s classic can only be best summarized by its well-known tagline: “Never has the screen thrust so deeply into the guts of war!”

To conclude this review of the film, I would urge anyone who is curious about the nature of war to watch Paths of Glory for its chilling honesty and laudable aesthetics. As far as a rating goes, it deserves no less than an 8/10.

Thanks for reading.