Paths of Glory

War | In English | 88 minutes | 1957

Info

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this is a harrowing film depicting trench warfare during World War I. French General Georges  Broulard orders his subordinate, General Mireau, to attack a German stronghold. Mireau is reluctant to do so citing it as a “suicide mission.” Broulard convinces him   the attack will be successful and he’ll also get a promotion.  Mireau assigns the job to Colonel Dax of the 701st Regiment. Dax vehemently protests knowing  the futile attack will  result in no gain and heavy losses. However, he obeys the order. The attack is a total failure. An enraged Mireau orders his artillery to shell the battlefield knowing that this will kill many of his own men. The artillery  officer refuses without written authorization. To deflect blame for the fiasco, Mireau decides to court-martial three soldiers, one from each company, citing their cowardice. Dax, who was a criminal defense lawyer in civilian life, defends the men at their trial.  The trial is a sham. No written records are kept and the court refuses to accept exculpatory evidence.  The three men are executed by firing squad.  The night before the executions, Dax informs Broulard of Mireau’s order to fire artillery, risking the lives of his own men. Fearing that Dax may make this information public, Broulard informs Mireau that this will be investigated. Broulard also offers Dax Mireau’s command. Dax refuses calling Broulard a “degenerate, sadistic old man.” After the execution, Dax returns to his men who are living it up in a cafe. They are unaware that they will soon be returning to the front line.

Cast
Kirk Douglas (Colonel Dax) / Adolphe Menjou (General Georges Broulard) / George Macready (General Paul Mireau)
Why Stream This Film?
Paths of Glory had the misfortune of opening the same year as The Bridge on the River Kwai. Otherwise it would have garnered the awards it deserved. In an interview, Kirk Douglas stated “This is a picture that will always be good, years from now. I don’t have to wait 50 years to know that; I know it now.” Until 1975, the film was banned in France for its supposed anti-French sentiment.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus) 95% 95%
Accolades
  • BAFTA Award: Nominated, Best Film
  • Writers Guild of America: Nominated, Best Screenwriting
  • Belgian Film Critics’ Association: Winner of the Grand Prix

Now streaming on:

This forthright picture has the impact of hard reality, mainly because its frank avowal of agonizing, uncompensated injustice is pursued to the bitter, tragic end. The close, hard eye of Mr. Kubrick’s sullen camera bores directly into the minds of scheming men and into the hearts of patient, frightened soldiers who have to accept orders to die. The execution scene is one of the most craftily directed and emotionally lacerating that we have ever seen.
Bosley Crowther

The New York Times

PATHS of GLORY was the film by which Stanley Kubrick entered the ranks of great directors. It has an economy of expression that is almost brutal; it is one of the few narrative films in which you sense the anger in the telling. There is no nostalgia in PATHS of GLORY
Roger Ebert

Chicago-Sun-Times

The horror of war is laid bare when soldiers face executions to placate tyrannical officers after their plans go awry. It is arguably the best film about the first world war, and still has a reasonable claim to being Stanley Kubrick’s best film.
Peter Bradshaw

The Guardian

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All Quiet on the Western Front

This Oscar-winning film was adapted from Erich Maria Remarque’s novel and many feel it makes a most persuasive anti-war statement. When World War I breaks out in 1914 in Europe, adolescent students in a German school heed…

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