Friday, February 20, 2015
Based on the biography Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago and the memoir A Soldier’s Story by Omar Bradley, Patton is the story of the World War II general and his exploits in the war along with his own unconventional methods in battle. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North, the film is an exploration into the life of General George S. Patton his time during World War II as he’s played by George C. Scott. Also starring Karl Malden, Michael Bates, and Karl Michael Volger. Patton is a riveting and rapturous film from Franklin J. Schaffner.
The film explores the life of George S. Patton during his campaign in North Africa in 1943 as well as his eventual battles in Sicily and other European campaigns till the end of World War II in Europe. It’s a film that plays into a man who isn’t afraid to speak his mind while being a general who plays his own rules with old-school methods inspired by moments of the past. Yet, his tactics and uncompromising views on the way things are either has him be praised by some while others are bewildered by his behavior as well as his old-school methods. In some ways, Patton is essentially a stubborn motherfucker yet he is someone that seems to be fine with that as he knows he’s a egotistical son-of-a-bitch that wants some glory in the battlefield. The difference between himself and those he’s fighting with is that he has the balls to admit it.
The film’s screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North play into these different period of battle in Patton’s time as he is a man that embodies the idea of what it is to be a soldier and a general as he isn’t afraid to get his boots dirty nor is afraid of being shot at. It’s the kind of man that seems to love war as he lives to fight where the Germans want to know how he’s able to beat them in North Africa during its first act. When German military leaders ask one of their insubordinates in Captain Steiger (Siegfried Rauch) to study about him, it is Steiger who is fascinated by him as he sees him as a man out of step with the times as he uses methods from past wars to win battles instead of going for modern-day tactics.
It’s tactics that often confuse the Germans as well as Americans and their British allies where Patton often contends with his leaders and other officers including his longtime friend General Omar Bradley (Karl Malden). At the same time, Patton is also his own worst enemy as his willingness to say things or do things often get him in trouble. Especially at the risk of his superiors who want him to stay put and not cause any trouble yet they need him because he’s someone that can get the job done. It’s a dichotomy that is very interesting as well as the fact that he is a man that is someone that plays into a sense of something that was lost in war which adds to Captain Steiger’s admiration towards him.
Franklin J. Schaffner’s direction is truly mesmerizing from the opening sequence where Patton does this amazing monologue behind the American flag about the ideas of war and what men should do when fighting a war. It’s not about dying for the man’s country but making the other person die for his country. It sets the tone for the rest of the film of who Patton is as much of the film is shot in Spain for the scenes set in North Africa and Sicily along with a few locations in England, Belgium, Greece, and Morocco to play into his battles and moments of notoriety. Schaffner definitely aims for a lot of broad wide and medium shots to play into a man who is definitely considered larger than life. The use of those wide shots add a lot to the film’s battle scenes as well as everything that Patton is doing in terms of strategy and the need to beat the Nazis in such a brutal way. While the violence isn’t quite graphic, its sense of impact in its aftermath as well as the sense of death is still evident such as the first sequence set in North Africa.
The direction also has moments that are very intimate where Schaffner knows where to place the camera such as a key scene where Patton learns he is expected to do nothing during the upcoming Normandy campaign as he talks to his longtime aide Sgt. Meeks (James Edwards) in the hallway about how he’s feeling. It’s presented in a very detached wide shot and then cuts to medium shot of the two with Sgt. Meeks in the foreground and Patton in the background as he is talking. It plays into that sense that Patton is a man who isn’t just detached from the current state of the world but also someone who might be too extreme for the 20th Century. Most notably in a scene where he visit a hospital tent to meet with the wounded while he sees a young soldier crying over fatigue as he slaps the shit out of the guy and threatens to kill for acting like a fucking pussy. It plays into the idea of what war is where it is about fighting to go home. If that person doesn’t want to fight and go home, what happens when there is no home to go to?
It is among these elements in a film that like this that plays into the idea of who Patton is. He is a flawed individual but Schaffner knows how to play into that as there’s scenes where Patton is giving speeches in places near France and in Britain where he does take a few pot-shots at certain individuals and countries. The presentation of these moments play into Patton’s own discomfort when he’s not in the battlefield as Schaffner uses some key close-ups to play into that sense of discomfort. Once Patton is in battle, he is absolutely in his element where Schaffner showcases someone who lives to fight through its many different approach to compositions as the direction feels loose and sprawling. Overall, Schaffner creates a very towering yet exhilarating film about one of the 20th Century’s most controversial yet uncompromising warriors.
Cinematographer Fred J. Koenekamp does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography that is very vibrant with its approach to colors for many of its daytime interior/exterior scenes as well as create some unique lighting schemes for the scenes at night including an impromptu battle at night between U.S. army tankers and a German battalion. Editor Hugh S. Fowler does brilliant work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward in terms of creating tension in the drama as well as using some offbeat rhythms for the comical scenes as well as the battle scenes that occur in the film. Art directors Urie McCleary and Gil Parrondo, with set decorators Antonio Mateos and Pierre-Louis Thevenet, do fantastic work with the set pieces from the look of the mansions where Patton stays in during his down time as well as the tents and bases where he deals with military matters.
The sound work of Douglas Williams and Don Bassman do excellent work with the sound to capture the way planes fly near the bases as well as the sounds of gunfire and cannons as it adds to the sense of chaos that is war. The film’s music by Jerry Goldsmith is superb for its very bombastic, brass-based score to play into a sense of triumph and pride as well as some low-key orchestral moments for some its dramatic moments.
The casting by Michael McLean is great as it features notable small roles from Tim Considine as the crying soldier that Patton slaps, Morgan Paull as Patton’s North African aide Captain Jenson, John Doucette as Major General Lucian Truscott, Edward Binns as General Walter Bedell Smith, and Richard Munch as the top German military leader Colonel General Alfred Jodl who tries to figure out everything that Patton is doing. James Edwards is terrific as Sgt. Meeks who often helps Patton with smaller duties out of the battlefield while Paul Stevens is superb as Colonel Charles R. Codman who is Patton’s new aide during the European campaigns as he would observe Patton’s methods. Karl Michael Vogler is fantastic as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel whom Patton admires for his tactics though Rommel is a Nazi. Siegfried Rauch is excellent as Captain Steiger who is asked by Rommel and Jodl to study Patton as he would become an admirer of his ideas and methods.
Michael Bates is brilliant as Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery as a man who is eager to win battles so he can be in history books as he has a hard time dealing with Patton’s own methods and one-upmanship during the war. Karl Malden is amazing as General Omar Bradley who starts off as an insubordinate of Patton as he tries to cope with Patton’s methods as he later becomes his superior where he tries to keep Patton in check so that Patton could fight. Finally, there’s George C. Scott in a performance for the ages in the titular role as he exudes that sense of grandeur and craziness into a man that feels like he is from another place in time as he uses old-school methods to win battles while becoming unhinged when he’s not fighting battles as he has to deal with diplomacy as it’s a performance filled with charm and ferocity as it is truly an iconic performance from Scott.
Patton is an outstanding film from Franklin J. Schaffner that features a truly towering and astounding performance from George C. Scott in the titular role. It’s a film that doesn’t just embody the idea of what it means to be in a war but also in how to lead an army into fighting for what is right. Especially as it showcases George S. Patton in a very complex way through all of his flaws and attributes while revealing that there will never be another warrior like him. In the end, Patton is a phenomenal film from Franklin J. Schaffner.
© thevoid99 2015