Monday, 20 February 2017

Patton (1970)

General George S Patton was a hugely divisive figure in the Allied war effort of World War 2.  He was arrogant and insubordinate, frequently clashing with other commanders, and when receiving orders he did not like, was not above claiming that the message had been "garbled" and then doing what he'd intended all along.  He also had a tendency to make controversial statements in public; to openly spurn representatives of the Soviet Union, despite them being allies in the war; and on more than one occasion was known to strike soldiers under his command for "cowardice" when they suffered from battle fatigue.  These misdemeanours, along with his aggressive strategic approach, saw him relieved of command for months at a stretch, and excluded from the D-Day landings in Normandy.

On the other hand, Patton was also an extremely effective commander.  He defeated the Afrika Korps in Tunisia, captured Messina in Sicily, and rampaged through France once finally reappointed to command, culminating in a vital role in defeating Hitler's Ardennes Offensive.  Such was his ability that the wehrmacht considered him to be the best commander the Allies had.

This rather lengthy biopic (it runs over 160 minutes) covers Patton's career from his arrival in North Africa to his final dismissal after the Nazi surrender.  It is anchored by a masterful performance by George C Scott as the man in question, for which Scott justly won an Academy Award.  The film itself also picked up the Best Picture gong and five other Oscars.  It's an engaging and authentic-feeling work, though how authentic it actually is, is somewhat more doubtful.  Patton was long dead and the producers did not have access to his diaries.

As is becoming a theme with this set of films, this is worth seeing if you have an interest in the period it covers.

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