Paths of Glory takes place over four days, runs just under ninety minutes and has thirteen or so significant characters. It’s hard to identify the most significant character–Kirk Douglas’s protagonist the viewer’s way into the film, but he’s not the most significant.
The film opens with George Macready (who, along with Wayne Morris, is my vote for most significant character) and Adolphe Menjou. The film then moves on Morris’s story (with Ralph Meeker); Douglas shows up in this period too. At no point is the film’s second half, a court martial trial, forecast. Director Kubrick and co-screenwriters Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson pace the film brilliantly–everything is immediate. In the penultimate scene, when Menjou proposes to Douglas the idea of the opposite, it confounds Douglas and reveals the cognitive disconnect to the viewer.
Then Kubrick gives the viewer–and Douglas–some hope for the human race in the last scene. He handles it carefully–he and editor Eva Kroll cut Glory sublimely. There’s never a wasted moment, but Kubrick never gives the sense of being too precise or reductive. He just balances it all.
Great photography from Georg Krause.
In the lead, Douglas is fantastic. He gets a big trial scene, but his quiet seething scenes are even better. His often cautious reactions to Macready and Menjou are phenomenal. And they’re both great. Macready more, just because he gets the most to do in the film.
It’s a perfect film. Every moment is spectacular, quiet or loud.
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