Stars: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris
Genre: Drama, War
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 88 minutes
Stanley Kubrick had already made his talent known with the outstanding racetrack heist thriller The Killing, but it was the 1957 antiwar masterpiece Paths of Glory that catapulted Kubrick to international acclaim. Based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb, the film was initiated by Kirk Douglas, who chose the young Kubrick to direct what would become one of the most powerful films about the wasteful insanity of warfare. In one of his finest roles, Douglas plays Colonel Dax, commander of a battle-worn regiment of the French army along the western front during World War I. Held in their trenches under the threat of German artillery, the regiment is ordered on a suicidal mission to capture an enemy stronghold. When the mission inevitably fails, French generals order the selection of three soldiers to be tried and executed on the charge of cowardice. Dax is appointed as defense attorney for the chosen scapegoats, and what follows is a travesty of justice that has remained relevant and powerful for decades. In the wake of some of the most authentic and devastating battle sequences ever filmed, Kubrick brilliantly explores the political machinations and selfish personal ambitions that result in battlefield slaughter and senseless executions. The film is unflinching in its condemnation of war and the self-indulgence of military leaders who orchestrate the deaths of thousands from the comfort of their luxurious headquarters. For many years, Paths of Glory was banned in France as a slanderous attack on French honor, but it's clear that Kubrick's intense drama is aimed at all nations and all men. Though it touches on themes of courage and loyalty in the context of warfare, the film is specifically about the historical realities of World War I, but its impact and artistic achievement remain timeless and universal. --Jeff Shannon
Colonel Dax, you're a disappointment to me. You've spoiled the keenness of your mind by wallowing in sentimentality. You really did want to save those men, and you were not angling for Mireau's command. You are an idealist - and I pity you as I would the village idiot. We're fighting a war, Dax, a war that we've got to win. Those men didn't fight, so they were shot. You bring charges against General Mireau, so I insist that he answer them. Wherein have I done wrong?
Because you don't know the answer to that question, I pity you.
Colonel Dax! You will apologize at once or I shall have you placed under arrest!
I apologize... for not being entirely honest with you. I apologize for not revealing my true feelings. I apologize, sir, for not telling you sooner that you're a degenerate, sadistic old man. And you can go to hell before I apologize to you now or ever again!
I can't understand these armchair officers, fellas trying to fight a war from behind a desk, waving papers at the enemy, worrying about whether a mouse is gonna run up their pants leg.
I don't know, General. If I had the choice between mice and Mausers, I think I'd take the mice every time.
How far did you advance?
To about the middle of no man's land, sir.
Then what did you do?
...Well, I saw that me and Meyer, sir...
I didn't ask you what you saw. The court has no concern with your visual experiences.
I went back, sir.
In other words, Private Ferol, you retreated.
Too much has happened. Someone's got to be hurt. The only question is who. General Mireau's assault on the Ant Hill failed. His order to fire on his own troops was refused. But his attempt to murder three innocent men to protect his own reputation will be prevented by the General's staff.