Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory, a stark and unsparing dramatization of the French army's atrocity against its own soldiers during World War I, was the first film to unite the major themes of Stanley Kubrick's career. Here the director's fondness for limning human hypocrisy and cynicism, his meticulous attention to detail, and the frequently bitter irony of his narrative are brought sharply into focus in an almost clinical gaze. Kirk Douglas gives a powerful performance as Colonel Dax, who, on orders from his superiors, must lead his men on a doomed mission to wrest control of a German-held hill. When three of his surviving soldiers are court-martialed, the good Colonel steps forward to defend them, but finds himself once more faced with the machinations of his commanders. (Adolphe Menjou shines as the conniving general.) The camera plunges headlong into the furious heart of battle. With its justly famous tracking shots, the film's path to tragedy is painstakingly ritualized, but utterly and brutally direct.

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