I had never seen it before, but it was really great. I loved the eccentric personality of Patton, and it was even better that the whole movie was just from his point of view. There were times I was actually surprised at how little the other characters were involved in the movie. They had so little development and personality compared to him - but Patton is such a huge character that it might just be hard to compare. It takes some seriously great writing to create a character-driven film that is interesting for three hours, but Coppola did it.
The movie is pretty obviously about U.S. General George S. Patton and his various escapades during World War II. It shows his victories, but also his struggles, such as his intolerance for a solider who is nervous to be fighting. He slaps the solider repeatedly in anger, upset to see that the man is crying about being afraid while in a tent full of wounded soldiers. He is extremely confidant - he even walks with an arrogant swagger. He is able to inspire the troops with his speeches, which I thought was really neat. After he gives one when he proclaims that they will succeed or die trying in their mission, someone comes up to him and expresses a concern that the men don't know when he is acting or not. "They don't need to know," Patton responds simply.
Even though he had such a temper, there was something appealing about him, to me. I envied his determination and his ability to rally his men, because although he had flaws, he seemed to have so many strengths. He's very well-read and educated, but war seems to be his only hobby, really. I loved George C. Scott in this role, though. His acting is basically what makes the movie incredible to watch. He just fully embodies the character, and is able to give so much depth to the character. I was interested in the movie for the whole three hours, and Scott's great acting was one of those reasons.
The movie had pretty incredible cinematography, as well. There were some really well-framed shots. Of course there is the famous speech-in-front-of-the-flag scene, which just looks amazing. There were also cool little shots, usually with the subjects off center, or using reflections and things to add some interest to the frame. The use of sound was really nicely done, as well. While Patton is visiting the hospital tent, he sees an extremely injured solider whose whole face is bandaged and is on oxygen. He pins a Purple Heart to the man's pillow, and leans in to whisper something to him. The sound cuts out completely. I thought it was a really powerful way to give us a very brief glimpse from a perspective other than Patton's. I watched that scene and felt like I was straining to hear right along with the other guys in the tent.
I think it's a pretty masterful feat to be able to make a three hour movie that is pretty much just from the perspective of one character. Usually epics, especially war epics, have a few main players involved, so it was really different for me to see this style. I really liked it, though! Coppola's writing, Schaffner's directing, and Scott''s adding just made it so fascinating and engrossing. It's not like, the definitive World War II movie or anything. It's just Patton's war, and how things happened to him. Patton is such an interesting and strange character that it was really unique to see things through his eyes. I definitely think this is worth checking out if you have never seen it before.
Have any thoughts on Patton? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Patton
Buy it on Amazon