A Tale of Two Georges
Following defeat at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass a demoralized American Corps in North Africa find themselves with a new General in charge as General George S. Patton (George C. Scott) arrives. A stickler for discipline and respect he soon knocks this lackadaisical bunch in to shape and leads them to victory at the Battle of El Guettaron only to end up disappointed he learns that he wasn't fighting Erwin Rommel (Karl Michael Vogler). But victory in North Africa leads to further battles in Europe until his views on military strategy leads to him having his command removed.
I doubt there are many people who call themselves film fans who don't recognize the image of George C. Scott standing in front of the Stars & Stripes as General George S. Patton. But I wonder how many of those who recognize that iconic image have watched the movie where it comes from, I admittedly until recently hadn't seen "Patton" as whilst a highly regarded movie I felt my lack of knowledge on George S. Patton might make it 172 minutes of my life which went over my head. It isn't and "Patton" even for the uneducated works well and is a remarkably watchable move.
So as I mentioned, my knowledge of General Patton prior to watching "Patton" was name only as once again the British education system of the 80s didn't see fit to teach us about WWII in history lessons. And so with that in mind I have no idea whether "Patton" sticks to the facts or whether facts were altered to make it not just a look at the WWII career of Patton but a jingoistic movie at the same time. I mention jingoistic because the tone of the movie is one that Patton was a proud American and disliked anyone who was not a patriotic American. But never the less "Patton" still works for the uneducated because it doesn't get bogged down in the facts of war and focuses more on the man himself.
So as I said Patton is portrayed as a patriotic American and an outspoken one who didn't care for authority and marched to the beat of his own drum, disobeying orders and ruffling plenty of feathers in the process. At times his intentional disobedience comes across as egotism and in fact at times he almost seems delusional especially when it comes to expecting everyone to jump when he barks and bark he certainly does in many a scene.
That leads me on to why "Patton" works and it is a terrifyingly good performance from George C. Scott as General Patton. It is a full on performance from bringing the smirking ego to the fore to the dislike he has of those who disagree with him. We also get too see some of his quirks and not just the fact he wears a pair of guns like an old cowboy but believes he was a warrior in a past life. Yet Scott brings even more to his characterisation and alongside the almost mad dog aspect you also get the compassion as he feels for those who die in battle as well as their families.
It is not just Scott's performance which makes "Patton" still such a good movie and director Franklin J. Schaffner has delivered a movie which meets the criteria of being an epic. The camera work, the locations, the action and the use of extras all make this an impressive looking movie which delivers in scene after scene.
What this all boils down to is that "Patton" is an iconic movie and for very good reason as even for those without any knowledge of General Patton it is easy to follow and become engaged in. Not only that it features what is one of the greatest performances you will ever see with George C. Scott commanding your attention from start to finish.