Co-Writer/Director: Stanley Kubrick
Running time: 88 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): PG
West Germany Release date: 25th October 1957
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 9th July 2011.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
I am a bit of a fan of Stanley Kubrick and have decided to try and watch as many of his films as I can. This one was showing one afternoon and so it was duly recorded for a viewing at a later date. That later date came around today. Set during World War I, this film tells the story of a French Colonel who ends up with the unenviable task of defending three of his soldiers who are charged with cowardice.
Colonel Dax, a lawyer in civilian life, cares very much about his troops and tries to do his best for them. When ordered by General Mireau to attack a well defended position called the ‘Ant Hill’, he follows orders, but the enemy proves too strong and his troops have to fall back. One platoon is trapped in the trenches and the General orders his own artillery to open fire on them. This order is not obeyed despite the General’s threats to the officer commanding the artillery battery. After this debacle, and wishing to make an example, the General, along with his colleague, General Broulard, agrees to Court Martial three men for cowardice. Colonel Dax decides to act as their defence, but is not hopeful of a good outcome. The penalty for this crime is death by firing squad. The three men are selected by their unit commanders. At this point I’ll leave my brief summary, I won’t tell you the outcome because I don’t want to give away too much.
An excellent example of the filmmaker’s art, I couldn’t find fault with this film. It may look dated by today’s standards, but given the era it was made and the budget available, it’s a fine job. Also guilty of doing a great job was Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, he really stands out as a quality actor in this one. Also worthy of note were Ralph Meeker as Cpl. Philippe Paris, Adolphe Menjou as Gen. George Broulard and George Macready as Gen. Paul Mireau.
Everything about this film is well done, that is with one exception. The sound in the court martial scene is terrible, it’s a big room and I found the echo of the voices quite an annoyance. That aside though, I thought the anti-war message got through loud and clear and you are left with no doubt who the enemy really is. I really enjoyed watching this film and I can recommend it very highly.
My Score: 9.1/10