Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory ★★★★½

Scavenger Hunt #40 (12/31)
Task 28: The 'War to End All Wars' began on 28 July 1914. Watch a film about or set during World War I.

Can definitely tell that this is the earliest of Kubrick's works that I've seen—the unbelievable skill he always possessed is certainly on display, but the absolute mastery of the medium that I've seen in his later films just isn't quite here yet—though all of his trademark thematic potency is already running daringly hot. His razor-sharp wit allows us to shrug off the power-grabbing first act as a slice of classic irony, but Paths of Glory very quickly crosses that line of amusement and doesn't allow us to look back. Absurdity morphs into wickedness, and it becomes rather sickening to have to just passively sit and watch as the story unfolds. These despicable moments of human weakness allow for some equally stirring moments of human spirit, however: Kirk Douglas' Col. Dax is a welcomed moral compass, who eloquently serves as a mouthpiece for the film's themes without ever devolving into expository pandering (his closing statements in front of the court made me want to jump up and cheer, especially). It's this balance between cynicism and hope that Kubrick really nails here, and the end result is quite affecting. Just another fantastic anti-war statement (about the criminally under-utilized WWI, no less!) from one of film's most revered creators.

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