"Patton" Throwback Review
Brilliant. Brutal. Disciplined. Demanding. Courageous. Foolhardy. Religious. Racist. Confident. Demeaning. Eccentric. Foul.
These words were used to describe General George S. Patton Jr. Those words also happen to appear at one point or another in Franklin Schaffner's aptly titled biopic, Patton.
It's a film caught between two time periods of both Hollywood and real-life history. In 1970, the golden age of Hollywood was coming to an end as studios were moving away from lavishly epic productions and leaning more into auteur-driven stories that reflected the harsh realities of life. That year also was the height of the unpopularity over the war in Vietnam. Protests occurred regularly, and patriotism was no longer seen as a virtue.
The brilliance of Patton is that it can appeal to everyone. Francis Ford Coppola's script sees Patton for who he was, warts and all. He was a genius on the battlefield, achieving victory with historical speed and precision. The Germans feared and respected him.
But he was also a tyrannical brute. He berated soldiers both verbally and physically (an act that nearly cost him his career), and pushed his men to the absolute limit. He got the nickname "Old Blood and Guts" for his bloodthirsty campaigns that, while successful, were incredibly dangerous.
George C. Scott's performance is one of the finest biographical portrayals ever. Because the film has no side plots or heft supporting characters, Scott's electrifying performance is what drives the three-hour runtime.
But Scott isn't alone as Schaffner assists him with well-composed battle sequences and startling imagery. The film is epic in scope like the past, but it is also intimate in detail and character. It's a balancing act that entertains the viewer with production and theatricality but also educates them about one of the most complicated men in American history.