The film is now fifty years old, and my Patton Blu-Ray had suffered the ignominy of sitting on my shelf for a year or so while I chose sexier, easier films over it. Drunk on youth, and wine, I was suspicious of its age and judged it entirely on that. Bad, ageist, me. I am often wrong though (I blame the wine). In the end, I probably picked Patton perfectly. Fifty years can go swing; Patton is in pristine condition.
Although all the ratings online were positive, I’d never heard a friend or acquaintance mention Patton. Being the brave little soldier that I am, I watched it anyway. In the dark and everything. All I knew of George S. Patton was that he was a brash but brilliant general, responsible for some vital victories in World War 2. I did not know, for example, exactly how many parts of the war he had fought in, or about his ongoing rivalry with Britain’s Field Marshal Montgomery.
George S. Patton had a pathological passion for pissing people off. It made me warm to him immediately. The competition between the men makes for excellent entertainment, and Patton immediately impressed me with its script. The writing is water tight, and deliciously, drily, funny; Patton was bullish, foul mouthed and loose lipped, George C. Scott delivering withering remarks and powerful rants with aplomb. Scott won an Oscar for his performance, and no wonder. Brilliantly, he refused to collect it, clearly a man with similarities to the opinionated Patton.
The action is epic. Filmed long before CGI, the intensity and scale of the battles is fantastic- some shots had me wondering how nobody got hurt filming it. I mean, somebody might have got hurt, but they didn’t care back then did they. Die for your art, you yellow belly bastard! What do you mean “I’m just an extra”?
Patton’s violence couldn’t really be considered gritty these days, but is exciting and in places moving. The film is about more than war, it’s the study of a complex man who happened to be a soldier (and interestingly, also an Olympian). Three hours fly by and the print on my Blu Ray still had the interval in which was a nice nod to the age of cinema in which it was made.
Fascinating, funny, exciting and incredibly well acted, Patton, made in 1970, is so far the best film of 2020 on this blog. An accolade no doubt all of its dead cast and crew will cherish in their graves.
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