Combustible Celluloid
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With: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young, Michael Strong, Carey Loftin, Albert Dumortier, Frank Latimore, Morgan Paull, Karl Michael Vogler, Bill Hickman
Written by: Francis Ford Coppola, Edmund H. North, based on "factual material" by Ladislas Farago, Omar N. Bradley
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 172
Date: 02/04/1970

Patton (1970)

3 Stars (out of 4)

General Attitude

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's hard to imagine Patton making a huge impact in 1970, in the middle of the Vietnam War and toward the end of the "Peace 'n' Love" era. But watching the movie, it's easy to see how Patton is not presented as an authority figure, but as an outcast, a rebel that constantly butts heads with colleagues and commanders. Moreover, George C. Scott's intuitive, powerhouse performance paints a complex picture of a steadfast soldier that believed firmly in reincarnation, colorful language, and the glories of war.

The story begins in 1943 in North Africa, where 3-star General George S. Patton Jr. (George C. Scott) assumes command of the flagging American army and achieves a victory against the Germans. From there, he journeys to Sicily for another attack, going against orders to beat British Field Marshal Montgomery (Michael Bates) to another victory. Unfortunately, during this time, he happens upon a young soldier (Tim Considine) suffering from battle fatigue. Patton calls him a coward and slaps him, and the incident becomes news all over the world, resulting in Patton's banishment. At the last minute, his old pal, General Omar Bradley (Karl Malden), summons him back to help with one more battle.

Director Franklin J. Schaffner (Planet of the Apes) shoots the movie in wide-open shots, with lots of exteriors, and it all seems huge and mythical. Yet he fails to adequately balance the movie's two themes: the glory of war and the fallacy of war. They wrestle for a while, but then Scott's persona takes over, he makes a Patton a hero. Scott also bulldozes over all other characters; not even the method actor Karl Malden has much to do here. Francis Ford Coppola was a co-writer, and he won a pre-Godfather Oscar for his work.

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