A biopic of American general George S. Patton is, to be quite honest, something that truly interests me. I’d studied him ever so briefly in history, when he was aiding Britain’s General Montgomery with the invasion of Sicily. Aside from that though, I knew very little of him. In fact, all I knew of this film was that it had provided an oddly large number of references in Jackass 3D of all things. Still, Patton is a biopic that manages to ascend above the multitude of mediocrity on display these days, it’s frankly one of the greatest adaptations of life there is.
A varied picture of Patton is painted, and it’s the commendable efforts of director Franklin J. Schaffner and George C. Scott’s career-defining performance that bring such a portrait to life. Patton is shown to be far from the perfect man, a great wartime leader that was saddled with an ego and an almost childish approach to one-upmanship. He was also a strict diplomat, one that cared for sensibility and structure, but also truly cared for the men within his many battalions. There are some touching scenes throughout, Patton visiting a hospital sticks out in my mind as one such scene that brings together his hatred for cowardice and his respect for the bravery on display throughout the U.S. military.
He was a man bogged down by bureaucracy, and this is presented rather prominently throughout Patton. A desire to fight that often bordered on unhinged mentality, striving to be one of the all-time greats not because he thought of himself as such, but because he knew he had what it took. His conquests in Africa and Italy are well documented, and following up his frustrations with his absence throughout the final conquests in Europe are expressed well with a tremendous performance from Scott. Although Scott dominates much of the film, Schaffner finds time to give us some interesting supporting performances. Karl Malden, in particular, makes a great use of his screentime portraying General Omar Bradley. The scenes he shares with Scott make for greatly interesting pieces of work, all held together by strong direction.
The film isn’t just a stage for Scott’s dominating performance, but the direction from Schaffner is on par with this perfection. Some exceptional set designs, costumes and camerawork make for an interesting piece. Shots, camera angles and cinematography fall nicely into place, direction so good that you won’t feel the length of this epic. To take only a few years in the life of Patton and to merely scratch the surface of his politics, military career and personal aversion to falling in line with order is an impressive feat. There’s still a lot of detail on display throughout the film, more than enough to whet the appetite of just about anyone with an interest in the life of Patton.
A startlingly brilliant biopic, Patton is a formidable piece of film that captures the work and ideas of perhaps one of the most famous American generals to have served in warfare. Startlingly enjoyable, a resounding leading performance holds it all together with near-perfect results. Patton is a must-see biopic, one of the all-time greats in the many films that look to retell the famous figures of history. Patton is one of the few that feels worthwhile.