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Paths of Glory (1957)

American drama war film co-written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, starring Kirk Douglas.

Paths of Glory is a transcendentally humane war movie from Stanley Kubrick, with impressive, protracted battle sequences and a knock-out ending.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Story: After refusing to attack an enemy position, a general accuses the soldiers of cowardice and their commanding officer must defend them. (IMDb)


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Paths of Glory (1957) – A Cinematic Masterpiece That Marches Unforgivingly into the Heart of War

– Retrospective & Movie Review –

Paths of Glory (1957) – A Cinematic Masterpiece That Marches Unforgivingly into the Heart of War, Retrospective & Movie Review

Hey movie buffs! Today, let’s set the time machine to 1957, when Stanley Kubrick, before he was sending us into space with HAL 9000, took us deep into the trenches of World War I with “Paths of Glory.” Get ready for a rollercoaster of emotions, ethical dilemmas, and a sprinkle of Kubrickian brilliance!

The Plot: A Symphony of Injustice and Honor

“Paths of Glory” is not your typical war movie with heroics and flag-waving patriotism. Nope, Kubrick takes a different route, diving into the moral quagmire that is the military justice system. Set in the trenches of the Western Front during World War I, the film follows Colonel Dax (played with stoic brilliance by Kirk Douglas) as he tries to defend three soldiers accused of cowardice in the face of the enemy.

The plot unfolds like a tragic opera, with each act exposing the absurdity of war and the unforgiving machinery that grinds up human lives. It’s a gut-punch to the conscience as Kubrick examines the callous decisions made by higher-ups who value reputation over humanity.

Kubrick’s Directorial Ballet: A Visual Feast

Kubrick, the maestro of meticulousness, conducts a visual ballet in “Paths of Glory.” The muddy trenches, the dimly lit court-martial rooms, and the chaos of battle are all captured with a level of detail that immerses you in the bleakness of war. The tracking shots are so smooth; they could make Roger Federer jealous.

One standout sequence is the tracking shot of soldiers climbing over the trench to their doom. It’s a haunting portrayal of the futility of war, and Kubrick’s lens captures the despair etched on the faces of these men like a photographer capturing a painful moment frozen in time.

Paths of Glory (1957), Kirk Douglas, Movie Review

The Cast: Douglas at His Best

Kirk Douglas, the man with the dimple that could melt icebergs, delivers a powerhouse performance as Colonel Dax. His portrayal of a military man torn between duty and morality is nothing short of mesmerizing. You can practically feel the weight of the world on his shoulders as he navigates the insanity of military bureaucracy.

The supporting cast, including Adolphe Menjou and George Macready, adds layers to the narrative. Menjou’s General Broulard is the embodiment of cold pragmatism, while Macready’s General Mireau oozes arrogance and incompetence. Together, they form a trio of characters that represent the different faces of authority.

The Courtroom Drama: More Intense Than Your Aunt’s Thanksgiving Feuds

The court-martial scenes in “Paths of Glory” are like a high-stakes poker game where lives are the chips. The tension in the room is palpable, and you can cut it with a trench knife. Kubrick skillfully maneuvers through the legal proceedings, making each line of dialogue a bullet fired in the battle for justice.

As Dax fights tooth and nail for his men, you can’t help but cheer for the underdog, even if you know the outcome is as grim as a raincloud over a battlefield. The courtroom becomes the battleground for morality, and Kubrick makes sure the audience is right there in the trenches with the characters.

Paths of Glory (1957), Retrospective

The Anti-War Message: Louder Than a Trench Whistle

“Paths of Glory” doesn’t just depict war; it deconstructs it, laying bare the hypocrisy, the absurdity, and the inhumanity of it all. Kubrick’s anti-war stance echoes through the explosions and gunfire, asking us to question the very essence of conflict. It’s a sentiment that reverberates through time, reminding us that the human cost of war is far too high a price to pay.

Final Verdict: A Timeless Classic That Deserves a Salute

In conclusion, “Paths of Glory” is a cinematic gem that still shines brightly. Kubrick’s uncompromising vision, coupled with stellar performances, creates an experience that is as emotionally resonant as it is intellectually stimulating. It’s a war film that goes beyond the trenches, diving headfirst into the murky waters of morality.

So, grab your popcorn, put on your metaphorical helmet, and embark on a journey that will leave you questioning the very nature of honor, justice, and the paths we choose in life. “Paths of Glory” is not just a movie; it’s a timeless exploration of the human condition, and, much like war itself, it will linger in your mind long after the final credits roll.


Stephen Galen Estevan

Hello there! I’m Stephen, a cinephile whose love for the silver screen transcends eras and genres. Armed with a deep passion for films, from classic masterpieces to contemporary gems, I’m here to share my insightful perspectives, reviews, and recommendations with fellow movie enthusiasts.


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Find out more about Paths of Glory:

IMDb | Wikipedia | Rotten Tomatoes | Metacritic | Letterboxd


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