Release Date: 4 February, 1970
Oscar Ceremony: 15 April, 1971
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Starring: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young
Nominees: Airport, Five Easy Pieces, Love Story, MASH
“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” – General George S. Patton
Disclaimer: this review will be completely biased. I am SO tired of long war movies with no real plot. I’ve never really liked them to begin with, but now I’ve reached a saturation point. Patton is the last thing I wanted to watch after a final exam and a long tour. I had trouble staying focused because there was nothing to keep me interested enough for 2 hours and 53 minutes. I am sure this movie has an audience, but it definitely wasn’t me.
The film starts with the one and only General George S. Patton giving a fiery and blunt speech about war to an unseen audience (presumably his troops). He stands against a backdrop of a huge American flag, so in case you were wondering how patriotic this would be, there’s your answer. Actually, I don’t feel like giving you a full summary because truth be told, nothing really happens for a long time. It’s essentially just the story of Patton (a man who actually existed and was a prominent, controversial American war figure) and his endeavours during WW2.
Since the script was largely written by Francis Ford Coppola, and George S. Patton is quite the character, there are a few notable lines and moments here and there. However, if you have sensitive ears, keep in mind that Patton was primarily known for his outright vulgarity. I honestly didn’t have a problem with the crassness; this movie needed SOMETHING to keep it alive, and god knows the long pointless shots of ugly landscapes weren’t gonna cut it.
I do have to give some well-deserved praise to George C. Scott though, for his fearless and passionate portrayal of General Patton. I admit that he’s a really fascinating character, and I get the motivation behind showcasing him on the big screen. The filmmakers considered other actors for the part – in fact, it was rumoured that John Wayne wanted the role – but I think they got more than they bargained for with George C. Scott. When I hear the name Patton, I will always picture his face from now on. However, it’s interesting to note that Scott was actually the first actor to REFUSE his Oscar. He called the ceremony a “two-hour meat parade” and said that the awards were “offensive, barbarous and innately corrupt.” Well, I can’t really argue with him there. If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout this project it’s that there have been some pretty questionable wins. There’s obviously an element of subjectivity, taste and context to take into account, but it’s clear that the Oscars are inherently biased. If only George C. Scott were around to see how far we’ve taken it these days. It’s all about politics, isn’t it? Still, I can’t help but watch.
Finally, as an animal lover, I remain eternally conflicted about this movie. There are A LOT of animals in it. On the one hand, I love watching them. Patton’s dog, for example, is quite possibly the ugliest creature I’ve ever seen, but he manages to find a way to steal my heart. He provides a great source of comedic relief too. On the other hand, many of the animals seem to suffer in a lot of scenes. At one point, Patton notices that two mules are blocking the road, and instead of dealing with the situation like a rational human being, he mercilessly shoots them and subsequently throws them into a river. WHAT THE HELL, MAN? I get that the scene helps to show just how extreme he was, but that didn’t make it any easier for me to watch. I felt the same way in a scene from Apocalypse Now where they tortured a cow. I later read that they filmed it in the Philippines, so they could actually torture the cow in real life. This kind of stuff just doesn’t impress me much.
In fact, that’s probably what I’d choose to say about the entire movie. It was sub-par, if you ask me. Slightly reminiscent of an American version of Lawrence of Arabia, but with less effect. I’m excited to move on to better projects.