David Wheeler’s review published on Letterboxd:
More an assemblage of random note scrawls than a full-fledged review. My seventh Kubrick. A pretty scathing condemnation on toxic masculinity in a rather prismatic approach on the subject: Brigadier General Mireau and Major General Broulard's wanting to save face — after foolhardily fumbling an attempt to take an enemy ant hill — in the eyes of critics and politicians lest their honor and virility be questioned; the closing scene as a room full of hooping and hollering soldiers foment at the sight of a captive German woman commanded to sing by a stagehand whose hands probe for the woman's figure (yet this is all squashed once a beautiful voice reaches these hungry men); and in the incessant, surely deliberate overabundance of officers commanding their men to 'act like a man.' At least, that's what I'd like to think despite the film's 50s cradle — more so, the 1935 publication of the source novel written by Humphrey Cobb, himself a World War I veteran. So much does the film's exploration on military incompetence and overwrought themes in extreme masculinity pervade the narrative that one would almost call this a satire given how overwhelmingly absurd the villains are conveyed. Fancy seeing a primitive Kubrick at work. Primitive to the extent that even an adolescent Kubrick outmaneuvers his contemporaries. Shot rather ordinarily for the most part, yet the genesis of Kubrick's obsession with symmetry, one-point perspective, and linear tracking shots are ever-present here. A noticeable blight upon the film is the vaudeville performances. Douglas maintains poise as ever, but an audience with Timothy Carey and Wayne Morris procures a biting extravagance as they emote tears and anguish in exaggerated bursts of action. Carey even seems half asleep most of the time with those heavy eyes. I'm no champion of Kubrick's works for the most part, yet his prowess as a sharp-minded filmmaker is heavily spotlighted here in his fourth feature film. War is hell. Military bureaucracy remains so infested with prided men and lethal incompetence that one may think the trenches a better refuge.