There are two reasons for rating films highly. The first is that you enjoy them so much, and the second is that you give them the upmost respect. ‘Patton’ is definitely a film in the latter category.
It is a vast and lengthy biopic of the eccentric American Second World War general Patton. Feared by the Germans, he was an excellent tactician, but had unconventional ruling methods. He had a short temper and was intolerant of the weaknesses of others. He also believed that he was a warrior in a past life.
The beginning of the film has the most impact. The General stands infront of the American flag and delivers a speech, addressing his troops with nothing short of passion. To him war is everything. The screen shows nothing but the flag and Patton, and the impact of this scene is so great that the viewer is forced to watch with nothing short of full attention. Few first scenes are as great as this.
Unfortunately the film does not maintain this impact for the rest of the film, but takes the form of a linear biopic that is definitely well delivered, but at times is, I personally feel, a little slow.
Some war films rely too heavily on extravagant fighting scenes, but this is not a typical war film, instead is remains faithful to the purpose and uses war as a setting for a study of a man, and that it largely delivers is testament to the talent behind this film.
Once again, I am confused as to why filmmakers change history for no explicable reason, and from reading about this film I see that the actual facts of the events are changed, without this adding anything to the story (see ‘A Beautiful Mind’). Patton was clearly a fascinating subject so I would have preferred this film to maybe focus on one event in his life, and that way the film could have been slicker and more factually accurate.
Patton is played by the wonderful George C Scott. This is one of the best performances that I have seen in any of these Best Picture winners. The screen is commanded by him for the duration, and there is no doubt who the star of the show is. Other performances support him, but are largely forgettable, as he drives his way through all the scenes: acting as if his life depended on it. From his mannerisms, facial expressions, script delivery, this is a performance that every actor should study in an attempt to learn how to become another person.
In short, whereas this is not a film that I ever feel myself wanting to rewatch time and time again, it does contain one of the greatest performances on screen, which is why this biopic finds itself in my top 40 Oscar Best Picture winners of all time.