Patton was one of the last Best Picture winners I saw and somehow also always the one I anticipated the least – I don’t know why since it won an astonishing seven Oscars and features one of the most celebrated performances of the last century. But somehow I always thought that this was not the kind of movie I would truly appreciate – and, to an extent, I was right.
As I said, the technical aspects of Patton are impressive. All the battles, especially in Northern Africa, feel very authentic and overall, Patton manages to make history alive in front of our eyes. But – here comes the b-word – Patton, even though it has one of the most unconventional characters at its centre, never manages to become more than a big, expensive, conventional biography. And not even an overly good one. Even though the movie obviously worships Patton and tells his life during World War II, I still never have the feeling that it really tells me anything about him that I couldn’t find out by checking his Wikipedia-page. In fact, I even had to do that a few times because Patton may worship its central character but it somehow never explains why he deserves such a big, long and elaborate movie about him. I learn that he was an important general and he loved to fight and obviously made a big impact on the enemy but somehow Patton fails to really present itself as a movie about this man. I am also always surprised when Patton is described as an ‘anti-war’ movie since its main character, its plot and its direction constantly state the opposite.
I also strongly dislike all the scenes with the German officers (even though I am happy that they actually cast actors who sound German, unlike other movies or TV-shows, like Scrubs or The Simpsons) because their dialogue is so horribly contrived (how many times do they need to analyze the character of Patton?) and everything about those scenes so fake that they alone are enough to deny Patton the Oscar for Best Screenplay.
Patton has impressive battle scenes and features a great performance at its centre and I also won’t deny the excellence of various technical aspects. But it feels unnecessarily elongated at various points and not even George C. Scott can save the production from almost being crashed by its own exaggerated monumentality.