By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
It is 1943, and after the embarrassing failure at the Battle of Kasserine Pass, General George S. Patton is assigned to take over the American II Corps, and bring it up to fighting shape. Patton is a strict disciplinarian and hot tempered, but also fancies himself a poet-warrior. Anxious to write his name into the history books of this life, he wastes no time knocking his men’s heads together with discipline. While his victories are piling up, his behavior with his men earns him the ire of the press.
Actor George C. Scott delivers the performance of a lifetime, perfecting encapsulating the strange two-sided relationship the historical General had with life. Patton is a divisive figure; on one hand Patton was an officious, callous man prone to vanity, and on the other he was an excellent battlefield commander; a studious, educated man who loved the army and his troops even more. Scott completely descends into the character, perfectly capturing his dark and lighter sides. In one scene in particular, Patton is being driven to a battlefield, but he insists on a detour to review the ruins of a far more ancient one, where he reveals his belief in reincarnation…
The award-winning screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola brilliantly negotiates the challenges of Biopics by focusing on a singular aspect of Patton’s being; his life as a soldier. Pulling quotations from history, the film opens with the famous “briefing” sequence, in which Patton delivers an epic speech directly at the camera. Viewers of the film serve as his audience. This speech is full of obscenities and shocking language which in the late 60s/early 70s was quite daring to put in a major movie. Of course, the actual dialog was toned down slightly from history, as Patton was not known for censoring himself.
Director Franklin J. Schaffner keeps the film moving along at a brisk pace, in spite of the near three hour long runtime. If anything, the film could have moved slower at times, as sequences such as the Battle of the Bulge and the run to Berlin fly by at a breakneck speed. That said, the film manages to balance small character moments with creating a worthwhile narrative, and that is quite an accomplishment.
The film’s score, by Jerry Goldsmith, is an iconic, sweeping piece of music which is instantly recognizable. It begins with drums led by piccolo into a march, before exploding into fanfare with all the guts and glory of the film’s lead characters.
This is how a Biopic is supposed to be made.
Take a Drink: when Patton talks about history/quotes poetry
Take a Drink: whenever Patton shouts at someone
Drink a Shot: each time Patton and Montgomery contend for glory